What To Do If Someone is Having a Seizure: Recognition and First Aid

Would you know what to do if someone you were with began to have a seizure?  According to the Epilepsy Foundation, “Epilepsy and seizures affect nearly 3 million Americans of all ages.” Seizures are what happen when the electrical system of the brain malfunctions, “Instead of discharging electrical energy in a controlled manner, the brain cells keep firing. The result may be a surge of energy through the brain, causing unconsciousness and contractions of the muscles.”

It’s important to note there are different types of seizures. The most common is called generalized seizure, also referred to as a tonic-clonic or grand mal seizure. According to Epilepsy.com, “Generalized seizures begin with a widespread electrical discharge that involves both sides of the brain at once”. Other types of seizures include petit mal seizures, partial (focial) seizures and alcohol withdrawal seizures. Epilipesy.com notes that partial seizures begin with an electrical discharge in one limited area of the brain. Many things cause partial seizures, for eample a head injury, brain infection, stroke, tumor or changes in the way an area of the brain was formed before birth. A person may have a single seizure or repetitive seizures.  In most cases, people with recurrent seizures or at-risk for recurrent seizures have epilepsy.

seizureWe spoke to Danielle Thomas, EMT-P, and director of pro EMS Center for MEDICS, to learn more about first aid treatment for people suffering from seizures. Thomas notes that typical seizure signs include movement or shaking and that large movement or jerks may occur. Atypical seizures could be less apparent notes Thomas, “The patient’s eyes may move side to side or up and down rapidly, or the patient may have a period of being awake but unresponsive to you.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers first aid tips to help someone who is having a seizure: 

  1. Stay calm. Stay safe.
  2. Prevent injury by clearing the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
  3. Ease the person to the floor and put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his head.
  4. Time the seizure with your watch (or if need be, by counting). If the seizure continues for longer than five minutes without signs of slowing down or if a person has trouble breathing afterwards, appears to be injured, in pain, or recovery is unusual in some way, call 911.
  5. Do not hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
  6. Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
  7. Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally and he is fully awake and offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he or she seems confused or unable to get home without help.

Remember, to always have iTriage downloaded on your smartphone or tablet. It’s a great tool to have at times like these when quick medical information or attention is needed.


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