“Fits, shakes, episodes, or seizures” just a few of the ways I have heard epilepsy mentioned. I have sadly also heard, of occasions when seizures have been poorly managed and the individual has had injuries from those trying to help.
This doesn’t need to happen, seizures may appear scary but can easily be managed from a first aid perspective. With February being the month of International Epilepsy Day, what better time to discuss the condition?!
How common is it?
According to Epilepsy Society UK, there are over 500,000 people living in the UK with epilepsy. This works out at 87 people diagnosed per day. Epilepsy affects adults and children, and all ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Epilepsy can affect anyone, from any walk of life and their first seizure may happen at any time.
What is it?
Epilepsy is caused by the neurons in your brain misfiring and causing mixed messages and a surge of electrical activity. For someone with epilepsy, each seizure they experience, may be different from previous ones. Each persons epilepsy is as individual as they are. Some people can tell a seizure is about to occur, and others will get no warning.
There are over 40 types of seizures people may may drop to the floor, and move in a rhythmic jerky motion. They may be incontinent of urine or faeces. The person may bite their tongue so there may be a bloody trickle of saliva. During a seizure patients breathe more shallowly, so you may notice some colour changes, their eyes may be in a fixed position and look as if the person is staring at something, or their eyes may have rolled backwards so you just see the whites of the eyes.
Some seizures are so subtle it could look as if the person is day dreaming or staring out of a window. They may be carrying out one action repeatedly such as teeth grinding or lip smacking, All of these are common in epilepsy and are nothing to worry about. The key is to stay calm, assess what’s happening and take correct action.
How can I help them?
First aid for epilepsy is simple and something everyone can do without extensive training or complex procedures.
- Restrain the casualty
- Force something into their mouth
- Move them unless they are in immediate danger
- Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully conscious
- Stay with them, checking for danger (such as cars, hot water etc)
- Remove anything near them such as sharp objects, small furniture ie coffee tables. Objects that can not be moved easily such as wardrobes or heavy tables should have something soft placed against them such as blanket, coat or pillow.
- Time the seizure
- Cushion their head by placing something soft such as cushion, coat, or rug underneath, but allow the head to move freely.
- Call 999 for help.
Once the seizure is over they will need to be placed in the recovery position to protect the airway and aid recovery.
Seizure management is covered on all our first aid courses, but if you would like to know more about the condition and how to give emergency rescue medication Midazolam then this course may be of interest for you. Epilepsy Awareness and Buccal Midazolam Training