Frequently asked questions
Epilepsy is a tendency to have unprovoked, recurring seizures. There are many different types of seizures but they are almost always due to abnormal electrical activity somewhere in the brain.
You can find our more at our What is epilepsy? page.
For seizures and other neurological symptoms not due to abnormal electrical activity, please see our page on Functional Neurological Disorder (FND).
People can acquire epilepsy in a number of ways. Visit our Epilepsy page to find out more.
This will depend on the individual circumstances and is a judgement call that should be made with the safety of the person experiencing the seizure AND the person assisting kept in mind.
It is advised that you roll a person experiencing a tonic-clonic (convulsive) seizure on their side as soon as it is safe to do so.
The key Seizure First Aid steps are the following:
- Time the seizure
- Protect the person from injury
- Roll onto side if unconscious
- Support head if seated
- Redirect if confused
- Reassure and re-orientate
- Stay with the person
DO NOT restrain the person
DO NOT put anything in their mouth
DO NOT give food or drink until they have recovered
Intranasal and Buccal Midazolam are used for the Emergency Management of prolonged seizures. Midazolam (Hypnovel) is a short acting benzodiazepine medication like Diazepam (Valium, Antenex, Ducene) and Clonazepam (Rivotril, Paxam). The prescribing doctor will write an emergency plan to be followed.
Midazolam used for:
- Emergency treatment/management of prolonged seizures
- Sedation during medical procedures
Midazolam may be prescribed for people with epilepsy who:
- Often have seizures that last longer than 5 minutes
- Have a cluster of seizures that recur close together
- Have a history of status epilepticus
- Live a long way from emergency services
- History of recurrent prolonged febrile convulsions
Parents and carers should complete education in the administration of midazolam to ensure they are confident in their ability to do so.
Midazolam can be given in the following ways:
- Buccal – Trickled inside the cheek between the lower gums and inner cheek area of the mouth
- Intranasal – Dripped slowly into the nasal passage or sprayed into the nose using a nasal atomiser device. Midazolam is absorbed rapidly via mucosal membranes in the nose or mouth and directly into the bloodstream. It does not need to be swallowed. If swallowed it will be less effective (swallowing is not harmful). Ambulance officers and medical practitioners are able to give midazolam intramuscularly (into the muscle) or intravenously (into the vein).
There can be many reasons why you’ve started having seizures at age 45. if you’ve had a diagnosis of epilepsy, then maybe your neurologist or your doctor will have an answer for you. Maybe it is because of a brain injury or some structural damage to the brain. It’s best to ask your doctor or call the services team on 3435 5000.
With regards to age of onset, anyone can be diagnosed with epilepsy at any age and the cause is not always clear. Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in those aged under five years and those over 60 years. Please feel free to give us a call and one of our services team would be more than happy to discuss this with you further. We can be contacted on 3435 5000.
Whether or not you can drive if you have epilepsy is dependent on whether your seizures are well-controlled. After your first seizure, a compulsory six-month driving ban is the recommendation in Australia. This does not necessarily mean you will not drive again- although unfortunately for some people with epilepsy this may be the case.
In general, responsible individuals with well-managed epilepsy may be considered by the relevant driver licensing authority to be fit to drive a private vehicle. This is dependent on observing the appropriate seizure-free period and compliance with treatment and other recommendations.
You can find out more on our page “Transport and Driving guidelines.”
Dietary therapy is now a recognised treatment for epilepsy in children and adults and is offered by many specialists and epilepsy clinics. This can be beneficial for some people with uncontrolled seizures, however there is no guarantee or way to predict successful treatment prior to trying this method.
You can find out more HERE.
We have a list of organisations that provide assistance or seizure alert dogs in Queensland. There is no governing body that we are aware of for seizure dogs, so, unfortunately, we can’t vouch for their standards, costs or levels of service. Please contact our Services team on 1300 852 853 for more information or check out the websites we have collated below.
Association of Aust Assistance Dogs NQ Inc – www.asdogsnq.com.au
Mental Health Assistance Dogs – www.awaredogs.org.au
Aussie Angels Assistance Dogs Inc – www.aussieangelsassistancedogs.com
Canine Helpers for the Disabled Inc – www.caninehelpers.org.au
Smart Pups Assistance Dogs – www.smartpups.org.au
The Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs Australia – www.cstda.com.au
You can find a list of Queensland Government approved trainers here.
Most of the time your GP will refer you to a neurologist to have some tests done and confirm the diagnosis. They can often hand your treatment back to your GP to manage and co-consult with you.
Find out what to know about Your Neurologist Appointment here.
Epilepsy and alcohol don’t always mix well. Some medications become ineffective when mixed with alcohol. Sometimes memory is more affected when alcohol is consumed, then medications get missed or sleep becomes interrupted. Some people are fine to have one standard drink a day, while others are not. It is best to ask your doctor for advice or call our friendly Services team on 07 3435 5000.
For most people, missing one dose on a rare occasion is unlikely to cause a seizure. However, the following general recommendations apply:
- Check the patient information leaflet for instructions
- In general if usually taken:
Once a day – take the forgotten dose as soon as you remember it; or
Twice a day – take within six hours after it was due
- DO NOT take twice as much at the next dose time.
Taking a larger dose than normal could cause side effects.
If too much is taken, please call the Poisons Information Centre 131126.
(Please note this varies between medications, so please seek further information from your doctor or pharmacist)
Many people may appear to stop breathing during a tonic-clonic seizure and sometimes do. If it is safe for the person and yourself, you can put them in the recovery position. When the movements stop and seizure is ending, you may need to deliver some rescue breaths until help arrives. If someone always stops breathing when they have a seizure, it is good practice to call an ambulance as soon as possible, don’t wait for the five minute rule.
It can certainly happen that someone stops breathing while they are convulsing, however, you can’t do anything until the movements stop, then you may be able to give assisted breaths until the ambulance arrives. Please give the services team a call on 07 3435 5000 and we can clarify any concerns you might have.
Yes! Volunteers assist us in a number of different areas and you can find out more on our “Volunteer” page.
In comparison to the general population, the increased prevalence of epilepsy in those with autism (and vice versa) is well established. Whilst statistics can differ according to the source, a recent study estimates this rate of occurrence at approximately 20%.
As epilepsy is a highly individualised, spectrum condition, there is no one definitive answer to this question.
There are many contributing factors which may include:
- Seizure type and how frequently they occur
- Occurrence of severe or prolonged seizures
- Type of epilepsy and region of the brain affected
- High doses of medication or multiple medications
- Existing brain damage
- Head injuries related to seizures
Overall, it is known that sustained and repeated seizures affect a person’s quality of life and may negatively affect brain function in the long term. Prolonged seizures are the most dangerous, with possible permanent brain damage.
Good seizure control where possible is the best measure against negative impacts to the brain.
Because absence seizures can present as staring episodes it can be quite difficult to determine this type of seizure from daydreaming.
- Absence seizures are very brief and usually only last seconds, whilst daydreaming can be longer in duration.
- Absence seizures usually start and end suddenly, whilst for daydreaming the mind and attention may wander off gradually.
- Awareness is impaired in an absence seizure, so a child will not be aware they have had a seizure, but are usually aware if they have simply been daydreaming.
- The child won’t respond during an absence seizure and cannot be roused by a gentle touch whereas these actions will bring a daydreamer back to attention.
The response to this depends on the individual as medication suitable for one person, may not be the best option for another person with epilepsy. It is always best to discuss this with your doctor or specialist. Two emergency medications for seizures that are most commonly used in Australia are midazolam and diazepam. Midazolam is preferable because it is shorter-acting than diazepam and can be easily administered via the mouth or nose.
There is a transport Taxi Subsidy Scheme for people with severe disabilities. Your doctor needs to apply for you. Find out more here.
There is a Companion Card for public transport for people with disabilities, if you would like to contact the services team they can step you through those applications. Find out more here.
In January 2020, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), implemented changes to the transport funding under the NDIS, whereby, participants will be able to flexibly use their plan’s core support funding to include costs associated with transportation needs.
As a result of this flexibility, participants should consider whether the option to have their transport funding directly deposited into their bank account is the right option for them. This option would reduce the flexibility of how the transport funding is accessed.
NDIS participants should direct specific questions about this to their NDIS Planner or Local Area Coordinator (LAC).
You can find out more about the NDIS and transport funding here.