Have you ever witnessed someone having fits or convulsions? This sudden jerky movement when the person is not conscious, can be an epileptic seizure. Although epileptic seizures may seem alarming, they are not always emergencies.
Epileptic seizures can impact a person’s daily life, but with regular medication and a healthy lifestyle, the condition can be kept under control. Such seizures are often unpredictable and may lead to an injury or fall.
Therefore, to prevent the risk of harm to the epileptic patient, it is crucial to be aware of the different signs and symptoms of epileptic seizures and promptly implement first-aid steps before medical help arrives.
What are epileptic seizures?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that disrupts the brain’s activity when sending out messages through cells. This sudden change in electric activity can lead to epileptic seizures.
Seizures can either cause the person to stare blankly or lead to involuntary movements in the body like twitching or trembling that can last for a couple of minutes. If the timing of the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, it’s an emergency.
What are the different types of seizures?
Depending on their duration and occurrence, seizures can be classified into focal onset seizures and generalised seizures.
- Focal onset seizures usually occur at a single point in any one-half of the brain and gradually spread to the other parts—this type of seizure results in impaired awareness and abnormal behaviour.
The person might either stare endlessly into space, speak repetitively or walk around in circles. As the person is zoned out for that moment, they might not even remember engaging in such actions.
- Generalised seizures usually occur in multiple areas simultaneously. This type of seizure is prone to cause accidental injuries, as the person cannot control sudden body movements.
Generalised seizures can lead to different consequences, such as muscle clenching, continuous shaking, collapsing, confusion, or disorientation.
Types of generalised seizures
- Absence seizures: Unusual actions such as blank facial phenomena or subtle rapid movements like lip smacking or frequently blinking can be termed as absence seizures. They can occur without an aura and end abruptly. This type of generalised seizure usually lasts up to 15 seconds or less but can reoccur several times a day.
- Tonic seizures: This type of seizure can lead to spasms or stiffness in the muscles of the back, arms, and legs. The sudden clenching of these extensor muscles can cause the person to lose consciousness and collapse on the floor.
- Atonic seizures: Impaired consciousness or loss of muscle control is experienced in an atonic seizure, also known as a drop seizure. This type of seizure can cause the person to fall or their head to rollover due to the jaw is slackening, leading to severe injuries.
- Clonic seizures: This type of seizure often leads to a series of repeated or rhythmic movements of the muscles in the face, neck, elbows, and legs. Clonic seizures usually last for a few seconds or minutes: the jerking slows down as the episode subsides and stops completely.
- Myoclonic seizures: These seizures are sudden and involve quicker shock-like contractions. These cause spasms or twitches confined to individual muscles or groups of muscles in the face, trunk, arms, and legs. Myoclonic seizures do not often lead to loss of consciousness.
- Tonic-clonic seizures: Previously known as grand mal seizures or “convulsive” seizures, tonic-clonic seizures usually affect the whole body and last for a few seconds. They can cause a sudden loss of consciousness, muscle spasm, jerky movements, biting of the tongue, and at times, a loss of bladder control.
How to help someone having a seizure?
If you ever witness a person having these signs and symptoms, it is probably a seizure. Carry out these few steps immediately to prevent any form of casualties to the person.
- Create an open space: Ask people to step away and not gather around the person. Guide the person away from dangerous spots such as stairways, elevators, traffic, and water. Remove hard or sharp objects like glass, mirrors, or furniture within the person’s reach to prevent an injury.
- Turn the person gently onto on side– to prevent aspiration and will help person breathe properly
- Keep your calm: Maintain calmness within you and request other people to stay calm as well. Carry out these steps only with a clear and peaceful mind.
- Accompany them throughout the seizure: Be with the person until the effects of the episode completely wear off. Calmly talk about the seizure once the person regains consciousness and reassure that you will accompany them till he or she feels better.
- Don’t restrain movements: During a seizure, don’t try to control the person or stop their jerky movements. Restraining them can harm them as well as you, hence avoid holding the person until the seizure stops.
- Make them comfortable: Loosen any tight clothing around their neck like the tie or shirt button. Remove their eyeglasses and keep them aside.
- Support the head: Place a cushion or a soft towel under their head to protect them from hurting themselves during the rapid involuntary movements.
- Check for emergency contact: Look out for an emergency number in the person’s bag or wallet to reach out to a family member or get medical help.
- Prohibit placing anything between the jaws: Strictly avoid putting anything in the person’s mouth or giving them something to eat or drink until fully recovered.
- Time the seizure: Observe the duration the seizure lasts: they usually last something between 30 seconds to two minutes. When the seizure begins, look at your watch, time its duration, and inform the activity later to the doctor.
- Clear the airway: Once the movements have stopped, turn the person on one side to keep the airway clear. During a seizure, the tongue might move back and block breathing. Therefore, after rolling the person, place their jaw angle in a forward direction to ensure no breathing difficulty. Also, drain out any food or vomit from their mouth after the seizure.
- Precautions on a wheelchair: If a person starts showing seizure symptoms in a seated position while on a wheelchair or when sitting on a sofa, bus, train, or even a stroller, follow specific first-aid steps to help the person. Firstly, don’t move them from their position as the seat provides them with some support, but ensure they don’t fall off the seat. Protect their head from dropping and place a headrest for support. Ensure you lock the wheelchair or stroller in one position to avoid it from moving ahead.
- Precautions for seizure in water: If a seizure begins when a person is in water, for instance, when they are bathing or swimming, immediate procedures must be followed to save the person from a life-threatening situation. If the person is in a pool during a seizure, hold their head above the water surface. After the seizure subsides, quickly remove the person from the water. Check their breathing patterns and pulse. Call medical help for an examination even if the person seems to have recovered from the seizure.
When to call a doctor?
The signs and symptoms of each type of seizure can range from mild to severe. A seizure generally subsides within a couple of minutes, but it requires urgent medical attention if symptoms last for longer than five minutes.
Call-out an ambulance:
- If a second seizure occurs immediately
- If the person remains unresponsive after the seizure has stopped
- If the seizures are accompanied by high fever and heat exhaustion
- People with other medical conditions like diabetes or pregnant women are more vulnerable and need to be rushed to the doctor.
Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.
Witnessing someone with a seizure can make you feel afraid and helpless, but not all episodes are emergencies. If you are familiar with the physical signs of seizures and are aware of the appropriate first aid response, you can help save a person’s life.
Also, follow precautionary guidelines to protect your children or loved ones affected by epilepsy. Educate and empower them from harming themselves during a seizure. Keep the doctor informed of all the seizure activity and always reach out for medical help immediately in emergencies.