Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How To Help A Seizure Victim

Being new to the epilepsy world, I don't know if the word victim, in reference to someone having a seizure, is politically correct.  But, it's really the only way I know how to word it at this point.  And, for those of you who know me, I'm not all that concerned with being politically correct anyway.

My last post gave lots of information about the different kinds of seizures and I promised to follow up with information on how to help somebody who is actually having a seizure.  So, I'm going to restate the ways a seizure can present itself and then give ways to help after each one.

1.  Loss of Awareness/Consciousness (focal seizure) - A person suddenly interrupts an activity and stares blankly.  This may or may not be accompanied with fidgeting, like playing with fingers or buttons or lip smacking or chewing.  This can also cause strange sensations like smells or tastes.

If you come across somebody who is having a focal seizure just stay with them until they regain consciousness.  Time the seizure for them so they know approximately how long it lasted.  Once they regain consciousness ask them basic questions regarding their name, the date, etc....   Ask them if there's anybody you can call to sit with them if they need time to recover.  Stay with them until you know they are fully recovered as these seizures can sometimes be followed by tonic clonic seizures.

2.  Partial Body Convulsions/Involuntary Movement - Only part or one side of the body convulses or jerks, often rhythmically.  Sometimes people may collapse due to the kind of movement caused by the seizure.

Again, stay with them.  Time the seizure.  They may or may not know what's going on.  If they are unable to respond to you and the seizure has lasted more than a few minutes, it may be necessary to call for an ambulance as emergency medication might be necessary.  (I'm not as familiar with this kind of seizure, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.)  Once the seizure ends, stay with them until you are reassured that they have received the help they need.

3. Full Body Convulsions/Involuntary Movment - The entire body is convulsing or jerking.  The most obvious kind being Tonic Clonic (Grand Mal), which is a constant convulsion of the entire body. 

If a person presents with a full body, constant convulsion type of seizure, they will be completely unconscious and unable to respond.  First, clear the area, where they are laying, of any objects that they could bump into and cause injury.  Then, if possible, turn them to their left side and tip their chin down just slightly (as in CPR) to open up the airway.  Keep a hand on them and speak calmly to them.  Reassure them that they will be okay. And, in the mean time, time the seizure and call for emergency assistance if it lasts more than a few minutes.  If these seizures last too long, they could cause brain damage due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.  Stay with them until somebody they know is there to help.  This kind of seizure will often cause muscle pain and weakness as well as extreme fatigue once it's finished, so they will need assistance.  One other thing that everybody should know about tonic clonic seizures or any seizure for that matter.  People CANNOT swallow their tongue if they're seizing.  DO NOT EVER put any object in their mouth to hold their tongue down.  It could seriously injure or even kill them.  Like everybody else, they need their mouth clear of objects so they can breathe.

So, there you have it - the basics to handling a seizure.  Please know that I am not a physician and that I am new to the world of epilepsy and seizures.  This is the basics as I understand it.  I'm sure that when it comes to describing the types of seizures I've given some inaccurate information.  But, like I said, we really just need to know how to respond and I just told you everything the hospital told me so I should be good on that side of things.  The important thing is to be there for the person, help keep them safe, time the seizure and call for medical help if necessary.  And again, don't put anything in their mouth.  EVER.

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