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Why You Need a Seizure Rescue Treatment on Hand

Posted on April 06, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Andrew J. Funk, DC, DACNB

  • People use seizure rescue medications — a form of seizure rescue treatment — for seizures that are long-lasting or happen in clusters.
  • Rescue medications for seizures do not replace a person’s daily epilepsy drugs.
  • Seizure rescue medications can help prevent injury to the brain and body, and they also decrease the risk for later cognitive difficulties.

The majority of people with epilepsy use medication on a consistent basis to limit or eliminate their seizures. Sometimes, however, people need extra medication for their epilepsy called seizure rescue medications.

Seizure rescue medications are generally for seizures that last longer, happen more often, and are more severe than what a person typically experiences. These rescue drugs are taken only when needed — to decrease the risk of an epilepsy emergency from happening. People should not use their rescue medications in place of their daily epilepsy drugs.

What Types of Seizure Rescue Medications Are Available?

Seizure rescue medications come in the following forms:

  • Pills for swallowing
  • Tablets that dissolve under the tongue or in the cheek
  • Gels that are applied via the rectum
  • Nasal sprays that are inhaled up the nose
  • Injectable forms that go straight into the bloodstream or muscle (only trained staff in a hospital setting can give this method of rescue therapy)

Some people also have medical devices implanted inside their bodies. These also serve as a type of seizure rescue treatment.

Many people with epilepsy, as well as their loved ones, are grateful for these rescue medications and treatments. One MyEpilepsyTeam member commented, “My child had a seizure today, but her rescue midazolam stopped it in five minutes.” Another member reported, “I use a nasal rescue medication. It works fabulously and stops the seizure in its tracks!”

Learn more about different types of seizure rescue treatments.

How Do Seizure Rescue Medications Work?

The most common kind of seizure rescue medication comes from a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. These medications enter the bloodstream rapidly, then quickly take effect in the brain. The rescue medicine calms the brain and halts the seizure.

About 30 percent of people with epilepsy who take antiepileptic drugs still experience seizures. That’s why seizure rescue medication is so important for many people with the condition.

Who Is Seizure Rescue Medication For?

Different forms of seizure rescue medication are available. Some are better suited for adults than for children. People who are old enough to swallow whole pills can take oral medications. Infants and young children who are unable to swallow can take the dissolving form of rescue therapy such as clonazepam (Klonopin).

Adults and children use nasal rescue medications when they cannot take the medicine by mouth. These nasal sprays work more rapidly than oral medication. People 12 and older can take midazolam, sold as Nayzilam. Those who are 6 and older can use the nasal spray form of diazepam called Valtoco.

Doctors and other health care providers most commonly prescribe a rectal gel form of diazepam, such as Diastat AcuDial, for children as a rescue medication. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the medication for children 2 and older who are also on a daily anti-seizure drug plan.

Health care professionals may recommend seizure rescue medications for different types of seizures. Orally dissolving clonazepam is the most common first option for people of all ages who experience seizures in clusters. The rectal gel form of diazepam is most often used as a rescue drug for people having long-lasting seizures.

Why Is Seizure Rescue Medication Used?

Although most seizures end within a few minutes, some last longer. Seizure activity that lasts longer than five minutes is called status epilepticus. This type of seizure is considered an emergency situation.

As additional therapies alongside regular seizure drugs, seizure rescue medications are best suited for the following situations:

  • Stopping seizures that last longer than five minutes
  • Limiting or eliminating seizures that happen in clusters
  • Halting any seizure activity that changes from its regular pattern
  • Preventing seizures that occur during emergencies and high-risk times
Have you tried seizure rescue medications? Have they been effective?
Click here to share your experience in the comments below.

What Does Seizure Rescue Medication Prevent?

Seizure rescue medications can help prevent several negative consequences that may arise from untreated long-lasting or atypical seizures. Rescue medications help decrease the risk of the following:

  • Brain injuries — Status epilepticus can lead to brain damage. One of the goals of rescue therapy is to prevent this from happening.
  • Physical injuries — Some people lose consciousness during seizure activity and need to take a rescue medicine to prevent a fall or other injury that can result from passing out.
  • Emergency situations — Rescue therapy can rapidly halt a seizure and avoid a trip to the emergency room. This can also help to keep a person’s health care costs down.
  • Cognitive impairment — Repeated seizures can lead to difficulty with memory, learning, or attention. Rescue medications can limit seizures and help prevent these cognitive difficulties.

Despite their tremendous benefit, rescue medications cannot replace a visit to the emergency room. In an emergency, call for medical assistance immediately.

When Is Seizure Rescue Medication Used?

Having a rescue medication on hand is useful for stopping a seizure in several situations. Someone with epilepsy should have their rescue medication close by in these scenarios:

  • During classroom sessions in grade school or college
  • When participating in sports events on an athletic field or court
  • While traveling on a school bus or in a car
  • During normal home activity
  • After getting sick
  • When changing or adjusting medications

Learn more about using seizure rescue medication as part of a seizure action plan.

Many people with epilepsy, and their loved ones, understand the importance of having seizure rescue medications on hand. One MyEpilepsyTeam team member commented, “For our vacation, I’m getting midazolam for rescue medication while traveling.”

Another MyEpilepsyTeam member stated, “On a positive note, we got a rescue medication to give during a convulsive seizure while in the car or elsewhere outside the house.”

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEpilepsyTeam is the social network for people with epilepsy and their loved ones. On MyEpilepsyTeam, more than 107,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with epilepsy.

Have you tried seizure rescue medications? Have they been effective? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Andrew J. Funk, DC, DACNB has held board certification in neurology with the American Chiropractic Neurology Board since 2015. Learn more about him here.

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