Seizures are one of the most common neurological conditions globally. People with seizures and epilepsy make up a higher percentage of the world’s population than those with Parkinson’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis combined. Many still avoid seizures and epilepsy discussions because of associated taboos and fear. So, they don’t have enough knowledge about how to diagnose the symptoms and help people in need.
A seizure is a neurological condition characterized by a sudden abnormal and uncontrolled neural electrical activity. It can affect a person’s consciousness, memory, behavior, and motor skills. Sometimes, seizures show signs and symptoms, and other times they are silent. Before understanding how to help a person during a seizure episode, let’s know how to diagnose it.
How can we identify if someone is having a seizure?
Seizures can affect people of any age, race, or ethnic origin. Various factors can cause seizures, including disturbed neurotransmitters, stress, high fever, injury, illnesses, or brain tumors. The symptoms may vary depending on the type of seizure. The following are the common warning signs and symptoms of a seizure episode:
- Sudden twitching or jerky movements of the upper and lower limbs
- Body stiffening
- Sudden fall associated with unconsciousness
- Not responding to words or noises or a short period
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Continuous staring at a nearby object or in the blank
- Difficulty in breathing
- Confusion and loss of awareness of surrounding
- Visions or sounds hallucination
How can we help a person during a seizure episode?
It is crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms of an impending seizure when you are with someone with a history of seizures. With some simple understanding, you can help people during a seizure episode, such as:
- Move the sufferer to a safe place:
If a person is experiencing a seizure episode, move them away from a dangerous area so they can’t get harmed by sudden bumping or injury. Lay them on a flat surface and support them, but don’t move them quickly. Remove additional supportive devices, such as hearing aids or eyeglasses. Loosen any clothing that is tight and can restrict their breathing.
- Turn the person on their side:
Turn the patient to their side, as the sufferer may drool or vomit, which could choke them. During a seizure, a person’s saliva or food particles flow backward, which can cause blockage of the airway passage. Rolling on the side can keep their airway clear.
- Don’t try to put anything in their mouth:
A famous old wives’ tale suggests putting an object in the mouth during a seizure may help recover them. But that is something you should avoid. The patient may bite off a piece and choke. Avoid putting your finger or hand in their mouth, as they could bite your hand. Also, don’t try to give CPR during a seizure episode, as the patient may start breathing their own after the seizure pass.
- Don’t try to hold them:
Restraining the person during a convulsion can cause physical injuries. Note down the timing of the seizure: Take notes about the timing of the onset of the seizure episode, how long it lasted, and what the symptoms were. This information is crucial and can help paramedics with appropriate management later.
- Call an emergency helpline:
Generally, a seizure episode lasts for a few minutes, but in the following conditions, immediately call the emergency helpline for further needs:
- If the seizure lasts more than five minutes
- Person is pregnant
- A person experiences breathlessness or cessation of breathing happens
- Another convulsion starts before the person regains consciousness
- Any injury happens
- A seizure occurring in the water
- A person has lodged food or vomit in the mouth
Once the seizure pass, a person may feel confused, exhausted, thirsty, sick, headache, anxious, or lost bowel or bladder control. So, stay with them until they become alert, communicate with them in simple language, and comfort them.
Seizures are usually self-limiting and last less than three minutes. Taking these simple steps will protect the patient from serious complications.
Dr. Amit Shrivastava, Senior Consultant – Neurology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, New Delhi