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07 Apr

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First aid for seizures

At TH Training Solutions, we often get asked about first aid for seizures.

The first thing that people often think about when they hear the word seizure is Epilepsy. However, there are many things as well as Epilepsy that can cause a person to have a seizure, such as a head injury or an imbalance of temperature in the body. Children under 4 are more vulnerable to this and these are known as febrile convulsions for children. There can also be a seizure-like-episode in some people at the start of a cardiac arrest.

Being able to assess the symptoms of the casualty, can help you to decide which treatment is best. Always consider what has led up to the seizure if you know.

In this article we are going to look at how to administer first aid to a casualty during a seizure.

Now the first thing to say is that if you don’t know anything about seizures and you’ve never witnessed somebody having a seizure before, it can be absolutely terrifying! The first time I witnessed a seizure was when I was 18, brand new into a care role and within the first couple of days, the person I was supporting had a tonic-clonic seizure. This is what most people recognize as epilepsy – convulsing, foaming from the mouth, turning blue etc. I honestly thought that the person was dying.

Today we will look at tonic-clonic seizures and the signs to look for.

The signs and symptoms of a seizure

At the start of the seizure the casualty becomes unconscious, their body goes stiff and if they are standing up they may fall backwards. The casualty normally lets out a loud, high pitched cry. This is due to the muscles stiffening and forcing air out of the body through the airway.

During the seizure the casualty will shake and have jerking movements as their muscles relax and tighten continuously. The casualty may bite their tongue or cheek and you may see a pink/blood colour fluid drain from the mouth (this is normally nothing to worry about). The breathing might be affected and it could become difficult or noisy. The casualty often becomes pale and cyanosis may be present, which is a bluish colour to their lips. The casualty may experience a loss of bladder and/or bowel control.

After the seizure (recovery from shaking/convulsions) their colour returns to normal and their breathing becomes regular. The casualty may be tired, confused, have a headache and want to sleep.

Now the good news is most seizures have a complete recovery, however seizures can be life threatening. Knowing the initial do’s and don’ts of first aid for seizures can be critical.

First aid for seizures

Do’s when treating a casualty who has had a seizure:

1. Clear any hazards away from the casualty. This is generally tables, chairs, objects they could hurt themselves on during a seizure.
2. Time the seizure immediately. This will be crucial to know when you need to call the emergency services.
3. Protect the head of the casualty using anything soft as a barrier – a pillow, cushion, clothing etc. Do not hold the head still during seizure as there is a small risk of neck injury.
4. If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes call 999/112 and ask for an ambulance.

Times to call an ambulance before 5 minutes;
1. If the person has repeated seizures, this means the person has started convulsing with an apparent recovery but then another seizure episode starts.
2. If you are unsure about anything – time, cause of seizure etc.

Don’ts during a seizure:

1. Put anything in the mouth. This includes the old myths of wooden spoons and your hands – yes really!
2. Do not try to restrain the movement of the casualty even if they are hitting their arms, legs etc. against walls or floors. You could use a barrier the same way you are protecting the head but the head is the priority.
3. Do anything beyond your limits or knowledge.

Some people use rescue medication for epileptic seizures, the most common is Buccal Midazolam and Rectal Diazepam. If you know the casualty and have been trained on how to administer their medication in an emergency then you may do so, otherwise do not attempt to administer any medication.

Just knowing the above can really help to support a casualty during a seizure, and administer first aid in the best possible way.

Seizures are not always as frightening as my first experience. On one of my recent training courses on the Wirral, a learner shared this story about their first experience of an Epileptic seizure.
“One day I was serving in the restaurant and a young couple came in to have lunch. Not long after their lunch was served the young girl started to have a seizure, myself and another colleague rushed over to help and said we’d call an ambulance. The boyfriend told us that the girl had epilepsy and not to call an ambulance yet as he was used to dealing with her seizures. Fast forward about ten minutes later and the young girl was sat up at the table eating her lunch.”

Whether seizures are caused by body temperature, head injuries or Epilepsy, dealing with them in the right way can be vital to a persons recovery.

More Information

We hope this article has helped you to understand more about first aid for seizures. If you want to know more or come on one of our courses then please get in touch, we’d be happy to help.

Epilepsy Awareness Course
Epilepsy and the Administration of Buccal Midazolam

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Delivering training courses in First Aid, Moving & Handling, Fire Safety, Food Safety, Health & Social Care and Paediatric First Aid