If someone you know or around you experience an epileptic seizure, it can make a big difference if you know how to assist them. Epilepsy is a range of disorders affecting the electrical functions of a brain; it has many different types.
Epilepsy can be characterized by unpredictable seizures. But not all seizures show the dramatic convulsions many people link with this disease.
You might be aware of the classic seizure, in which a person loses muscle control, twitches, or falls unconscious; however, this is just one type of a seizure called a generalized tonic-clonic seizure. It represents one of the many forms of epilepsy. Epilepsy doctors have found more than 30 different types of seizures.
Generally, a single seizure incidence does not constitute epilepsy. A person must experience 2 or more unprovoked seizures in 24 hours or more to be diagnosed with epilepsy. Remember, an unprovoked seizure occurs due to epilepsy and not a drug, toxin, or head trauma.
What do Seizures look like?
You might be aware of the generalized tonic-clonic seizure, also known as grand mal seizure. These are frightening to watch, and the person who has it doesn’t know or remember what has happened.
These seizures follow a pattern:
- You would notice that the person check’s out. They won’t answer or react if you talk to them. They might collapse.
- Their muscles clench and they become stiff or rigid as a board; it is a tonic phase usually lasting a few seconds.
- You might see them start a series of jerking movements; it is a clonic phase, lasting a few several minutes.
- After some time, jerking stops and they become alert and can talk again, appearing a bit dazed or unsteady for a little while.
Even a general seizure can be dangerous because a person is not aware of their surroundings and can’t protect themselves. The uncontrolled thrashings increase their chances of getting hurt.
Someone you know is having a Seizure – How do you deal with them?
If someone close to you has a convulsive seizure, some things you can do to help them avoid any additional damage to themselves. Follow these steps:
- Roll the person over to their side. They won’t choke on vomit or saliva
- Cushion their head
- Loosen their collar, so they can freely breathe
- Take steps to manage a clear airway; grip the jaw gently, and tilt the head back slightly to open the airway properly
- Do not try to restrain them, unless not doing so would cause them bodily harm as they might be on top of a stairway or the edge of a pool
- Do not put anything into their mouth. No medicines, solid objects or water. Remember, it is a myth that someone with epilepsy can swallow their tongue. However, they can choke on foreign objects
- Get rid of sharp or solid objects around them
- Takedown the time. Take note: How long was the seizure? What were the symptoms? Your observations will help the doctor later. In case if they have multiple seizures, how long was the time between seizures?
- Stay by their side throughout the seizure.
- Stay calm. Do not panic; it will be over soon
- Do not shake them or shout at them. It will not help.
- Ask bystanders to stay back and keep a distance. They might be tired, embarrassed, or disoriented after a seizure. Offer to call someone, or help them further, if they need it.
When can you seek Medical Assistance?
All seizures do not warrant immediate medical attention. Sometimes you may need to call a doctor, though. Call for emergency help if:
- The person has diabetes or is pregnant
- The seizure occurred in water
- The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
- The person does not regain consciousness following a seizure
- The person stops breathing after a seizure
- The person has a high fever
- Another seizure starts before they regain consciousness after the previous seizure
- The person hurts himself during the seizure
- If, according to your knowledge, this is the first seizure they have ever had
Remember to check for a medical identification card, a medic alert bracelet, or other jewellery that signals the person as someone who has epilepsy. Also, do not panic and keep a level head, handle the situation and do not leave the person alone, until you get them some help.