Inside Epilepsy: What to do if someone is suffering from a seizure

TORONTO – Epilepsy is a physical condition marked by sudden, brief changes in the brain’s function.

The unusual activity in the brain causes patients to have recurring, unprovoked seizures.

If a person is suffering from a grand mal seizure – when they’re convulsing uncontrollably – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these recommendations:

• Do not hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
• Prevent injury by clearing the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
• Ease the person to the floor and put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his head.
• Remove eyeglasses and loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
• Time the seizure with your watch. If the seizure continues for longer than five minutes without signs of slowing down or if a person has trouble breathing afterwards, appears to be injured, in pain, or recovery is unusual in some way, call 911.
• Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
• Don’t attempt artificial respiration… except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
• Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally and he is fully awake.
• Do not offer the person water or food until fully alert
• Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
• Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home without help.

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Complex partial seizure: a seizure that appears as a blank stare, loss of awareness, and/or involuntary blinking, chewing, or other facial movements.

• Do not restrain the person.
• Stay calm and speak reassuringly.
• Remove dangerous objects from the person’s path.
• Calmly direct the person to sit down and guide him or her from dangerous situations. Use force only in an emergency to protect the person from immediate harm, such as walking in front of an oncoming car.
• If he is agitated, stay a distance away, but close enough to protect him until full awareness has returned.
• Remain with the person until he or she is fully alert.

Consider a seizure an emergency and call 911 if any of the following occurs:

• The seizure lasts longer than five minutes without signs of slowing down or if a person has trouble breathing afterwards, appears to be in pain or recovery is unusual in some way.
• The person has another seizure soon after the first one.
• The person cannot be awakened after the seizure activity has stopped.
• The person became injured during the seizure.
• The person becomes aggressive.
• The seizure occurs in water.
• The person has a health condition like diabetes or heart disease or is pregnant.