Seizures and First Aid

phoneIt pays to be prepared. Here are some tips on offering first-line assistance to those experiencing seizures. Before offering help to anyone in an emergency situation, it is advisable to call 911 and request assistance first.

Convulsive Seizures

For individuals that experience generalized seizures, the following first aid should be provided in order to assure safety for all individuals involved and nearby.

  • Keep calm and reassure onlookers.
  • Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
  • Time the seizure with your watch.
  • Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
  • Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
  • Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
  • Turn him or her gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear. Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. It is not true that a person having a seizure can swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure teeth or jaw.
  • Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
  • Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
  • Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home by himself.

Non Convulsive Seizure

For individuals that experience non-convulsive, the following first aid should be provided in order to assure safety for all individuals involved and nearby.

  • Watch the person carefully and explain to others what is happening. Often people who don’t recognize this kind of behavior as a seizure think that the dazed person is drunk or on drugs.
  • Speak quietly and calmly in a friendly way.
  • Guide the person gently away from any danger, such as a steep flight of steps, a busy highway, or a hot stove. Don’t grab hold, however, unless some immediate danger threatens. People having this kind of seizure are on “automatic pilot” so far as their movements are concerned. Instinct may make them struggle or lash out at the person who is trying to hold them.
  • Stay with the person until full consciousness returns, and offer help in returning home.

Types of Seizures

There are many different types of seizures. People may experience just one type or more than one. The kind of seizure a person has depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected by the electrical disturbance that produces seizures. Experts divide seizures into generalized seizures (absence, atonic, tonic-clonic, myoclonic), partial (simple and complex) seizures, non-epileptic seizures and status epilepticus.

Generalized – Generalized seizures affect both cerebral hemispheres (sides of the brain) from the beginning of the seizure. They produce loss of consciousness, either briefly or for a longer period of time, and are sub-categorized into several major types: generalized tonic clonic; myoclonic; absence; and atonic.

Partial – In partial seizures the electrical disturbance is limited to a specific area of one cerebral hemisphere (side of the brain). Partial seizures are subdivided into simple partial seizures (in which consciousness is retained); and complex partial seizures (in which consciousness is impaired or lost).

Partial seizures are the most common type of seizure experienced by people with epilepsy. Virtually any movement, sensory, or emotional symptom can occur as part of a partial seizure, including complex visual or auditory hallucinations.

  • Simple – People who have simple partial seizures do not lose consciousness during the seizure. However, some people, although fully aware of what’s going on, find they can’t speak or move until the seizure is over.They remain awake and aware throughout. Sometimes they can talk quite normally to other people during the seizure. And they can usually remember exactly what happened to them while it was going on.  However, simple partial seizures can affect movement, emotion, sensations, and feelings in unusual and sometimes even frightening ways.
  • Complex – Complex partial seizures affect a larger area of the brain than simple partial seizures and they affect consciousness. During a complex partial seizure, a person cannot interact normally with other people, is not in control of his or her movements, speech or actions; cannot control what he or she is doing; and does not remember afterwards what happened during the seizure.