Emergency Care for Urgent Situations: Seizures
A seizure occurs when there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. There are different types of seizures and while there are those that may come and go nearly without being noticed, there are those, in severe cases, that may lead to convulsions where one’s body shakes violently and uncontrollably as well as a loss of consciousness. In most cases seizures come on suddenly and can also vary in severity and how long they last. Those with seizure disorders or epilepsy will usually have seizures that are reoccurring and keep coming back. However, epilepsy rarely results in people that experience a seizure and chances are if you get one, it may happen just once. There are different types of seizures from the most common ones known as tonic-clonic seizures which usually come with convulsions, to absence seizures which can go undetected and usually last for only a few seconds. Other types include febrile seizures which occur in children with an infection as well as infantile seizures. Common causes of seizures include brain tumors, cancer, some medications, withdrawal from some medications and alcohol, narcotics use, brain infections such as meningitis, head injuries among others. Seizures can be frightening to witness and it is important to know what to do in such a situation and when to seek emergency care, something this article will look to assist with.
The first thing you should do if someone is having a seizure is to stay calm. It may be a scary situation to witness but you should not panic. You should then note when the seizure starts. If they have any tight clothing around their neck like a tie or the top buttons as buttoned up, you should loosen them to prevent chocking. You should then gently roll them onto one side of their body to keep their airways open and hence help with breathing. You should then take steps to ensure that the person having the seizures isn’t at a risk of injury. To help you do this, you should scan the area around them and move any objects that may injure them such as sharp objects, any furniture or glassware that may be around as well as telling any people who may be around to give the person room. The priority is to move any dangerous objects and you should only move the person if they are in a dangerous place, otherwise, don’t move them but move the dangerous objects. You should try to cushion their head by placing something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under their head. If they are wearing any eyeglasses, you should remove them. Once their seizure stops, you should put them gently in a recovery position and check to confirm their breathing is back to normal. You should also check their mouth and ensure that there is nothing impeding their breathing like any false teeth or food. Proceed to stay with them until they are fully recovered.
The above are instructions to follow only if you are sure the person having the seizure has a history of having the same sort of seizure such as those with a seizure disorder like epilepsy. If one is having a seizure for the first time, you should immediately call 911, and you should also do the same if one is having a different sort of seizure to the one they normally have. If you are not sure if one is having one for the first time or not, you should call 911 and not take any chances. Remember early on we had said that once someone starts having a seizure you should note the time which the episode started? Well, the reason for this is if the seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes, even if it is an epileptic seizure, you should call 911, so check the time and call 911 if the seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes. Other situations where you should call 911 is if the person having a seizure has badly injured themselves during their episode which could happen if the damage was done before you got the chance to clear any objects that could cause injury. You should also call 911 if they are having trouble breathing after the seizure stops and their breathing doesn’t return to normal or if they have a situation where one seizure follows immediately after another has finished with no recovery time in between. As you wait for emergency medical services to arrive, you should proceed as mentioned earlier as far as emergency care is concerned.
Just as important as knowing what to do in such a situation is knowing what not to do. Here, you should never hold down a person having a seizure or try to restrict their movements in any way. You should also not put anything in their mouths as this could cause injuries to their teeth or jaw during the seizure. Note that a person having a seizure cannot swallow their tongue so you don’t have to put anything in their mouth to prevent this from happening. Until the person has fully recovered and is fully alert, you should also not offer them any food, water or drink. Since people having a seizure will begin breathing on their own after the seizure, you should also not try to give them CPR.
It is our hope that with this article you will help you know how to proceed next time you are in a situation where one is having a seizure so that they can receive the medical attention they need and can avoid any unfortunate consequences.