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How to Be Helpful When Someone is Having a Seizure

Updated on March 31, 2020
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Fredda Branyon has dedicated her life to the advancement of complementary medicine.

Although the most commonly known cause of seizures is epilepsy, seizures are a symptom that can also result from heart disease, brain infections, drug abuse, and many other health problems or lifestyle choices. If you ever see a loved one suddenly drop to the ground and begin shaking violently, he or she might be having a seizure. Here’s what you need to know and do in the event that someone in your life experiences this uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain.

How to Help Someone Having a Seizure

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 3.4 million Americans have active epilepsy, and that focal seizures are responsible for about 60 percent of all epileptic seizures. During some of these attacks, a patient can become injured or have a life-threatening emergency, warns the Epilepsy Foundation. To prevent such adverse consequences from happening to a friend, family member, or anyone during a seizure, follow the guidelines below.

  • First, loosen the clothing around the patient’s neck to keep their airway passage free. Avoid holding them down since it could result in a serious injury.

  • Do not put anything in the patient’s mouth or in between their teeth in an attempt to stop them from accidentally biting their tongue. Contrary to popular belief, seizures rarely lead to a patient biting their tongue or cheeks with great force. Inserting an object in the patient’s mouth can cause a fatal emergency, such as choking.

  • Gently position the patient on their side to help maintain an open airway, and ensure that the patient does not inhale any secretions after the attack.

  • Calling an ambulance is usually unnecessary if the patient is known to have epilepsy. However, do not hesitate to call 911 if the seizure persists for more than five minutes, or if the patient experiences another attack soon after.

  • Do not leave the patient alone after his or her seizure. They may feel confused or scared, so your presence may bring them comfort.

  • Call 911 immediately if the patient remains unconscious, unresponsive, injured, or different after a seizure. This is especially important if someone who has diabetes, heart disease, or any underlying health condition suffers a seizure.

  • Call 911 if this is the patient’s first seizure of unknown cause.

If the patient is a child, it is normal for them to cry and feel frightened. Reassure him or her that you are there to make sure everything will be okay, and then follow the instructions above. However, if the child experiences myoclonic jerks during a seizure, ensure to check for injuries right after. Myoclonic jerks are dangerous when a child gets them while showering, brushing their teeth, or when doing homework on a desk. The involuntary jerks during a seizure can easily cause mild to severe injuries. The same level of hazard applies to atonic seizures and infantile spasms. A medical checkup is recommended after such seizures occur.

Hopefully, these first aid tips for seizures enable you to help a family member, friend, co-worker, or even a passerby when their health problem arises.


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