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How to Assist Someone During an Epileptic Seizure

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(JANUARY 2014) Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by sudden and recurring seizures resulting in loss of consciousness and convulsions. It affects men and women of all ages. During such seizures, assistance from others is critical to give the patient the best chance for quick recovery.

Here are some steps you should take if someone has an epileptic seizure in your presence.

First of all, stay calm. Seeing a seizure firsthand may be scary. Thankfully, most seizures only last less than two minutes. During that time, the body will likely convulse violently and muscle and speech control are lost. At the same time, the patient may lose awareness, vision and consciousness.

It’s important to protect the individual from injuring himself. If standing, try to gently lead him to a clear space on the floor. Position him on his side to prevent choking on any bodily fluids. Move any objects as far away as possible to prevent the patient from hitting them with any part of his body.

Contrary to common belief, you should not place anything in the victim’s mouth. Doing so can damage his teeth, jaw or tongue – and also puts your fingers at risk. You should also not try to hold the person down. At this point, you just have to ride it out.

Observe the seizure closely and try to remember details. The patient’s doctor may find your insights helpful in treating him to prevent future seizures. Details like how long the seizure lasted, how his body moved and how he acted immediately before the seizure are all valuable.

If the seizure continues for more than two minutes, or if the victim is pregnant, call 911 right away. You should also call 911 if he stops breathing for more than 30 seconds, if the victim suffers more than one seizure in a single day or if you’ve never known the person to have epilepsy before. Check to see if the patient is wearing a medical ID bracelet or epilepsy Mediband. This may provide confirmation.

After the seizure, it’s important to check the victim for injuries and make him comfortable. Ask if any part of his body is particularly sore. Visually inspect to make sure there are no new bruises, cuts or inflammations. If he’s in good physical shape and feels strong enough to move, assist him to a comfortable place to lie down and remove or loosen any constrictive clothing. He may be a little hazy so stay by his side until he’s fully aware of his surroundings.

If the victim doesn’t seem to come around fully within an hour, call 911. This could be a sign that the seizure has caused neurological damage. Other signs include confusion, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever and/or dizziness. If the patient experiences any of these, it’s best to call for emergency medical help.

The scary truth is that someone may not always be nearby to help when a seizure occurs. That leads an increasing number of people to seek out specially trained, “seizure dogs.” Read our article on How Seizure Dogs Help People with Epilepsy.

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