Seizures – please read

Consider this a public service announcement. Seizures are something most people know very little about. And I’m finding that most people don’t have any interest to learn. The thing is, anyone can have a first unexpected seizure, and if it’s you, hope that someone around knows what to do.

Not everyone having a seizure will froth at the mouth, or even shake or tremble. Some seizures involve just ‘zoning out’ for a short period (those ‘absence seizures’ don’t usually require any immediate medical attention). But most other seizures will involve either going limp and falling to the ground, or going rigid, or both. The body may also shake – either gently or more violently. So what do you do?

  • Calm down. Most seizures are not medical emergencies, and your calmness is the best thing for the situation.
  • Make sure there’s nothing sharp or hard near the person seizing. They should be in a rather comfortable place where they can’t fall (i.e., not the edge of the Grand Canyon, not a concrete sidewalk, no scissors or knifes nearby)
  • DO NOT put anything in their mouth. It is a myth that they could bite their tongue, swallow it, or anything like that. Do not attempt to rescue them from a myth.
  • If possible, it’s best for them to be on their side, especially if there are any indications that they might vomit.
  • Look for a clock and make a mental note of what time the seizure started. Also note what time it ends.
  • When the person stops seizing, they will be completely out of it for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on a lot of variables. Do talk to them to judge their level of consciousness. Also note what time they ‘come back’ to themselves.
  • If it was a first seizure, the person will need immediate medical attention to rule out potential causes like chemical ingestion and the like. But if the person has had seizures before, they probably don’t need medical attention unless the seizure itself lasted more than 10 minutes, or they don’t ‘come back’ to themselves after 15-20 minutes.

There you have it, folks. It’s really not that hard. The basics are – nothing in the mouth, stay calm. I hope that if my son should have another seizure, and it happens when he’s not with me, that someone around will know what to do. You could be that person – if not to my son, then to someone else.

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5 thoughts on “Seizures – please read

  1. Great question, Heather. And the answer is no, touching someone while they’re having a seizure will not prolong or bring on another seizure. Don’t beat yourself up – I probably would have done the same thing. The seizure actually starts in the brain and the visual signs you see are entirely involuntary. The seizure will stop on its own when the brain stops seizing, regardless of what’s going on in the rest of the body. The person is not in any pain, and will not remember it afterwards. I won’t say that it was right to disobey your camp counselor, but laying your hand on the girl and praying for her didn’t make the situation any worse – if anything it brought a healing touch.

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  2. I was a 15 year old camp counsellor one summer and we had a child who was experiencing seizures. Our camp nurse told me to make sure she was on her side and safe and not near anything that could hurt her but not to touch her at all after that because it could stimulate another seizure or prolong the current one. Is this still the truth? I so longed to comfort her and pray for her, so I layed my hand on her shoulder and prayed and she calmed immediately. I’ve alway felt badly for disobeying ‘the rules’ but I felt compelled.

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  3. This is actually really important information for ALL parents. Around 1/3 of children will experience a seizure induced by a fever spike (called febrile seizures) while sick sometime before they turn 3 years old. Fortunately, when it happened to my second daughter I knew what to do (my mom was a home health nurse and I’d seen many, many seizures and the appropriate response). Because we then educated all our friends with kids, my best girlfriend knew what to do when her little guy also had one.

    Febrile seizures don’t have lasting effects or indicate a deeper medical problem, but they’re scary and still warrant a trip to the ER.

    Thanks for sharing this, and we’re praying for your little guy.

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  4. Useful. Especially the “stay calm” part. Pity there was no education to help me as a kid when those first minor absence seizures hit around puberty. Of course, I kept them a secret until there began to be physical manifestations. (we will not discuss misdiagnosis)

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