Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Seizures: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2007 May 1;75(9):1348.

  See related article on seizures.

What are seizures?

If you have problems in your brain, you might have a seizure (SEE-zher). During a seizure you might jerk or shake. You might repeat movements like smacking your lips or grinding your teeth. After a seizure, most people feel sleepy or confused.

What causes seizures?

Most seizures are caused by an illness in the brain called epilepsy (EP-ih-lep-see). Seizures also can be caused by a brain injury from a stroke, trauma, infection, or tumor.

In some children, seizures can be caused by a fever. These are called febrile (FEEB-rill) seizures.

If you stop using alcohol or some drugs, you can have side effects called withdrawal. Withdrawal sometimes causes seizures.

Taking too much of some medicines also can cause seizures.

Are seizures dangerous?

Seizures are not dangerous, but you may get hurt if a seizure happens during certain activities (for example, driving, swimming, or working on a ladder). Most states won't let you drive until you have had no seizures for several months.

How can I stay safe during a seizure?

Most seizures only last a few minutes and stop by themselves. While you are having a seizure, the people around you should move sharp objects away and help you lie on your side.

They should not hold you down or put anything in your mouth. They should call 9-1-1 if the seizure lasts longer than a few minutes.

What can my doctor do about seizures?

Your doctor may do tests to find out what is causing seizures. You may need medicine to stop you from having more seizures.

Where can I find more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physicians

Web site:

Epilepsy Foundation

Web site:

Epilepsy Therapy Development Project

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

More in AFP

Editor's Collections


Sep 2021

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article