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Responding to a Seizure

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Updated: November 14, 2005

What to do when a fit occurs

Dealing with someone that is having a seizure can be scary. When someone is having a 'fit' their muscles jerk, they can loose consciousness, they often fall to the ground and can make noises e.g. rasping and shouting out. On top of this the face grimaces, the body can become rigid. Perhaps the most difficult aspect to witness, I think, are the changes to breathing patterns. In some types of seizure the person may not take a breath for what appears to be quite a long time. In fact it is your anxiety that will make it seem longer. In more serious types of seizure the person may begin to turn a slightly bluish (cyanosed) color before they take a breath.

Causes of Seizures
One of the problems of a seizure is that you might not know the cause. In fact 60% of people that experience a seizure will not have a diagnosis and may never get get a diagnosis. Seizures sometimes just happen for no apparent reason. Seizures in adults and seniors can also be caused things like a head injury, a brain tumor, or from cerebral irritability resulting from infectious diseases e.g. meningitis, a stroke, high fevers or from toxic substances.

How to Respond to Seizures
If you need to assist someone having a seizure here is what you need to do:

  • Try to note time the fit began.
  • Protect the person from injury or further injury. Move any sharp, hard or hot objects away from the area nearby.
  • Loosen any tight clothing such as around the neck, chest or waist area.
  • You need to help keep the airway clear. Rolling them onto their side will help drain any fluids out of the mouth. However, when someone is having a seizure you may have difficulty achieving this in the seizure's initial phase because of muscle rigidity and muscle jerks.
  • Do not try and force open the mouth.
  • Remember that although the persons' breathing changes and appears to stop it will just be for a 'short' time unless there is a major medical incident occurring ( something you cannot predict and something that is very rare).
  • Monitor the person. When they begin to return to consciousness and the seizure ends, reassure them. Sometimes the person can be disorientated for a short period of time and can feel very sleepy and lethargic.
  • Call emergency services if there is prolonged breathing secession, if the person is pregnant, diabetic or if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or if one seizure moves into another seizure.
  • One problem that a colleague of mine who was epileptic always complained about was that she would find herself in an ambulance before she was given time to recover naturally! Sometimes though it is just safer for the layman to call 911 and risk the their wrath!

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