March 19, 2010

Seizure Reactiveness 101

There is a 30 per cent chance of a person developing a seizure in their lifetime. Based on this percentage it is highly likely most of us will witness a friend, family member or stranger experiencing a seizure.

So what do you do when someone has a seizure?

People are reluctant to get involved when they see someone having a seizure. They're afraid of doing the wrong thing, don't understand what a seizure is, or they may be uncomfortable.

Related Links
Epilepsy Basics
Epilepsy Facts

Whether the person's seizure is related to epilepsy or not, it's important to remember that if watching someone has a seizure feels scary and upsetting, imagine what it feels like for them.

It's something Lynn Carlson, Nurse Clinician, wants you to keep in mind: "Epilepsy isn't contagious. You can't catch it. It's a very frightening thing to see but the people who are going through seizures need help and reassurance. It's a very upsetting thing to go through and they need kindness and reassurance."

Safety is the main priority when someone has a seizure in your presence.

What to do when somebody has a seizure

There are different types of seizures. The one people are most familiar with involves convulsions that can last from two to five minutes. They may result in the person losing consciousness or having muscle spasms. In some cases, a person may turn blue, foam at the mouth or experience loss of bladder or bowel control.

The first priority when someone is having a seizure is making sure they're safe.

Do . . . Don't . . .
Time it. Most seizures last between two and five minutes. Any longer and medical attention is recommended, so call 911. Restrain the person.
If the person is on the ground, put the person on their side to prevent choking. Put anything in the person's mouth.
Try to prevent injury. Remove things in the area that could cause damage to the person. Don't forget to control crowds. Gathering around someone who is having a seizure can be very upsetting when they re-orient.

In the following situations, call 911 immediately if:

  • the woman is pregnant

  • the person has diabetes

  • it's a first-time seizure

  • the person has a short seizure and then another seizure happens right after - back-to-back seizures

  • the seizure happens while the person is in water

After the seizure, provide the person with as much detail as possible about their seizure. If they haven't already started, encourage them to keep a seizure journal.

"Keeping a seizure record helps when you come to the doctor," says Lynn. "It gives us an accurate portrayal of how often a person is having seizures and the details of those seizures."

Interested in learning more?

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