A seizure is normally caused by abnormal electrical signals in one or more parts of the brain and witnessing someone have one, can be overwhelming and upsetting. Not knowing how to help in this situation can leave you feeling hopeless, and the victim is at further risk of injury by not intervening. Here is how you can help someone who is having a seizure.
What are Seizures?
A seizure is a medical episode that occurs when the nerve cell activity in the brain is disrupted abruptly.
Different types of seizures
There are 29 different types of seizures however, they are generally categorised into two types, and they are focal onset seizures and generalised seizures. Here is a brief outline of both in case you aren’t familiar with the two:
Focal (partial) seizures
This type of seizure occurs when an atypical surge of electricity is localised in one part of the brain. More times than not, the person is conscious and aware of what’s happening. They may experience involuntary body movements such as twitching that they cannot stop. If the seizure progresses, they may have a blank stare. It is not uncommon for people who have had a partial seizure to have no recollection of what has happened.
Unlike a focal seizure, a generalised seizure is when the electrical activity is widespread and affects many areas of the brain. The person suffering the seizure is not aware of what’s happening. This type of seizure is broken down into two phases, the first is the tonic phase, and this is where the person will typically lose consciousness, and their body will go stiff. This generally lasts for a few seconds before going into the next phase, and that is the clonic phase. The clonic phase is repeated convulsions. This can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. When someone has a generalised seizure, they may unintentionally injury themselves and this is where you as the bystander can step in to ensure the casualty is safe while waiting for it to resolve.
Are there any pre-warning signs of a seizure?
The pre-warning signs of a seizure can differ depending on which type of seizure the person is having. Some people have no pre-warning signs at all. Here are some common general symptoms:
- Changes in the 5 senses – smell, sight, sound, taste, touch
- Memory lapses
- Stiffness, twitching or jerking of limbs
- Amplified emotions
- Repetitive movements
- Feeling warm, nauseous, sweating
- Deja vu feeling
How to help with first aid when some is having a seizure
The first aid you’d administer for a partial seizure is slightly different to the first aid you’d provide for someone who is experiencing a generalised seizure.
How to help someone who you suspect is suffering a partial seizure
Speak to the person quietly and calmly. They may be able to hear you and follow simple instructions. This may be necessary to move them to a safer spot, and it’s easier to do so if they can move themselves. If they are safe where they are, do not attempt to move them or hold them down. Observe the person and ensure they are not in immediate danger until the seizure passes. Take note of the time, if the seizure lasts for more than 5-10 minutes or the person has another seizure, call 000 for assistance. Ensure the person is aware of what has happened afterwards and encourage them to follow up with their GP.
How to help someone who you suspect is suffering a generalised seizure
Ensure you stay calm, understandably this can be difficult, but it’s best for you and the person suffering a seizure that you try to remain as calm as possible. Check the time. Clear potential hazards or dangers away from the casualty, if any. Do not try to hold or restrain the person while they are having a seizure. Try to protect their head and keep their airway open. Use a pillow or alternative to place under their head. Loosen anything around the person’s neck that could restrain their airway such as a tie or scarf. Lay the person on their side, into the recovery position and wait with them until the seizure has stopped.
How do I know if I should call an ambulance or not?
Sometimes seizures can be life-threatening, and it’s important that you know when to call for help. Call 000 if the following occurs:
- The seizure lasts for longer than 5 minutes.
- The person is pregnant.
- The person has sustained an injury.
- The person has underlying medical conditions.
- The person has never experienced a seizure before.
- The person has laboured breathing afterwards.
- The person is unresponsive or is having difficulties waking up after the seizure.
- More than one seizure has occurred.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the person has some of the things mentioned above, especially if you don’t know them and their medical history. If you are unsure, always call for help. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here at Paradise First Aid, we offer a comprehensive first aid course that covers seizures and so much more. Contact us today for more information.
DISCLAIMER: This is a guide only, refer to nationally accredited first aid training for step-by-step guidance on administering first aid.