Epilepsy—a neurological disorder typified by unpredictable seizures—affects over 50 million people worldwide. Aside from resection surgery in a small number of cases, there is no cure for epilepsy. Given the overall complexity inherent to all neurological disorders, it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what triggers the seizures themselves. Because of this, seizure safety is vital for those suffering from the condition.
There are several treatments and safety procedures associated with epileptic seizures. Those with a loved one suffering from epilepsy may benefit from learning what to do in case a seizure occurs.
Seizures stem from abnormal communication patterns between neurons. More severe forms of seizures occur when abnormalities in electrical neural activity occur in both hemispheres of the brain.
Seizures can manifest themselves in dozens of forms, with symptoms ranging from a blank stare and minor tremors to a total loss of consciousness while falling to the ground.
A seizure can be alarming for both the person experiencing it firsthand as well as all those witnessing the occurrence. Once a seizure begins, however, there is very little that can be done to stop it. However, there are several ways to minimize the chance of injury and to ease the epileptic through the process.
First, it is helpful to let them know in a gentle and reassuring tone that they are in a safe place. Remind them to relax and breathe, while letting them know that the episode will soon pass.
Safely guide them to a place and position of safety, away from dangerous objects and crowds. If possible, dim the lights, as these can exacerbate symptoms and trigger further seizures. Use a calm voice as much as possible while avoiding rushed movements.
Once you have taken them to a safer location, try to find a pillow—or any substitute for a soft cushion (i.e. a rolled up jacket)—to put under their head, preventing trauma potentially resulting from involuntary jerking or twitching. Ensure that the area is free of all sharp, or otherwise dangerous, materials. Expect a lot of involuntary movement and prepare accordingly as much as possible.
As seizures tend to cause sensory oversensitivity, many do not like to be touched. Try to get them to roll over on their side if you can, as nosebleeds and vomit are less likely to obstruct airways in that position.
Refrain from giving them food and water during the episode as these may cause choking while unconscious. Some epileptics, however, benefit from a small sip of a high-sugar liquid in cases where glucose levels are directly linked to the seizure.
People often mistakenly recommend putting a spoon or stick on the tongue to prevent the person seizuring from biting their tongues—however, this can cause severe dental damage and is a major choking hazard.
If the seizure persists for longer than ten minutes, it is likely a good idea to dial 9-1-1. Most epileptics, however, are accustomed to the seizure process and will not require medical attention—rather, they will benefit from attentive and caring supervision as the seizure runs its course.
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