Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that hinders our brain activity when it sends messages through cells and this sudden change in electric activity often leads to epileptic seizures. These seizures can cause a person to lead involuntary movements in the body, like twitching or trembling, that can last for a couple of minutes or cause a person to stare blankly.
While epileptic seizures are not always emergencies but if these seizures last for more than 5 minutes, the person may require professional help. Seizure or convulsions can occur at any age due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain resulting in uncontrollable motor activity and loss consciousness and every one out of ten people develop seizures once in a lifetime where most of the time seizures develop at home, office or in crowded places.
There are many types of seizures and most seizures end in a few minutes or sometimes may be prolonged but even though it may look worrisome, immediate aid can help the person having seizure. Therefore, to prevent the risk of harm to an epileptic patient, people need to know the crucial first aid steps they can promptly take before medical help arrives.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Keni Ravish Rajiv, Consultant – Neurology and Epileptology at Aster CMI Hospital in Bangalore, suggested that to prevent any form of casualty to an epileptic person, you can carry out the following steps –
- Create an open space to enable the patient to breathe properly
- Make the person feel comfortable by loosening any tight clothing around their neck.
- Remove any sharp objects like glass, mirror or furniture that may cause an injury to the person.
- Offer support by staying with the person till the episode finishes and place a pillow or a towel under them to prevent them from hurting themselves.
- Track the time of the seizure and share the details with the doctor. A usual seizure lasts between 20 seconds to 2 minutes
- Look for emergency contacts in the person’s bag or wallet to reach out to their family members.
- Avoid placing anything between the person’s jaws or giving them anything to drink until they fully recover.
- Try clearing the airway by turning the person to one side once their movements have stopped. This step is critical because the patient’s tongue moves back during the seizure and blocks their breathing. Therefore, once you have rolled the person on one side, you must also try placing their jaw in the forward direction as it will help in ensuring proper breathing and must drain out any food or vomit from their mouth after the seizure.
Talking about when should you call a doctor, he said, “While the signs and symptoms of the seizure can range from mild to severe, however, these symptoms subside within a couple of minutes.” He revealed that if you are witnessing that these symptoms last for more than 5 minutes, then you can call an ambulance based on the following symptoms –
- If the patient is undergoing a second seizure, immediately
- If the person is unresponsive after the seizure
- If the patient is having high fever or heat exhaustion after the seizure
- People with other medical conditions like diabetes or pregnant women are more vulnerable, and if you come across any such patient, you must rush to the nearest hospital.
According to Dr Kranthi Mohan, Consultant Neurologist at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital in Bengaluru, these are the things to ‘DO’ and aid the patient who are having any type of seizure:
- Keep yourself and other people calm.
- Ease the person to the floor and turn gently to one side. This will help the person breathe.
- Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp. This can prevent injury.
- Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his or her head.
- Remove eyeglasses, loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe.
- Notice the seizure time and call for an ambulance if its exceeding 5 minutes.
- Stay beside the patient until seizure ends or till the person is completely awake and aware.
- Comfort the person and explain the event that happened calmly in simple words.
- Check to see if the person is wearing a medical bracelet or other emergency information.
- Offer to call a taxi or another person to make sure the person gets home safely.
The health expert insisted that the following are things that people should “NOT” do while aiding a person having seizure:
- Do not hold the person down or try to stop his or her movements.
- Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. This can injure teeth or the jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow his or her tongue.
- Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths (like CPR). People usually start breathing again on their own after a seizure.
- Do not offer the person water or food until he or she is fully alert.
Dr Kranthi Mohan recommended to get the patient to the nearest hospital or call an ambulance if the person:
- Never had a seizure before.
- Difficult breathing or waking after the seizure.
- Seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- Recurrent seizure soon after the first one.
- Sustained injury during the seizure.
- If seizure happens in water.
- Has comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease or is pregnant.
At last, for the patient with epilepsy, Dr Kranthi Mohan advised to follow these to avoid occurrence of seizures:
- Don’t miss your medication.
- Maintain regular sleep cycle and exercise
- Avoid head injuries and falls.
- Regular checkup if you have fever.
- Avoid flashing lights.
- Avoid driving, swimming and going to heights.