Epilepsy is a broad term used for a brain disorder that causes seizures. There are many different types of epilepsy. There are also different kinds of seizures.
Seizure First Aid
About 1 out of 10 people has had a seizure. That means seizures are common, and one day you might need to help someone during or after a seizure. Learn what you can do to keep that person safe until the seizure stops by itself.
First aid for generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures
When most people think of a seizure, they think of a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, also called a grand mal seizure. In this type of seizure, the person may cry out, fall, shake or jerk, and become unaware of what’s going on around them.
Here are things you can do to help someone who is having this type of seizure:
- Ease the person to the floor.
- Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help the person breathe.
- Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp. This can prevent injury.
- Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his or her head.
- Remove eyeglasses.
- Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe.
- Time the seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
First aid for any type of seizure
There are many types of seizures. Most seizures end in a few minutes. These are general steps to help someone who is having any type seizure:
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends and he or she is fully awake. After it ends, help the person sit in a safe place. Once they are alert and able to communicate, tell them what happened in very simple terms.
- Comfort the person and speak calmly.
- Check to see if the person is wearing or a medical bracelet or other emergency information.
- Keep yourself and other people calm.
- Offer to call a taxi or another person to make sure the person gets home safely.
Knowing what NOT to do is important for keeping a person safe during or after a seizure. Never do any of the following things
- Do not hold the person down or try to stop his or her movements.
- Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. This can injure teeth or the jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow his or her tongue.
- Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths (like CPR). People usually start breathing again on their own after a seizure.
- Do not offer the person water or food until he or she is fully alert.
Types of Seizures
Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain. People are diagnosed with epilepsy when they have had two or more seizures.
There are many types of seizures. A person with epilepsy can have more than one type of seizure.
The signs of a seizure depend on the type of seizure.
Sometimes it is hard to tell when a person is having a seizure. A person having a seizure may seem confused or look like they are staring at something that isn’t there. Other seizures can cause a person to fall, shake, and become unaware of what’s going on around them.
Seizures are classified into two groups.
- Generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain.
- Absence seizures, sometimes called petit mal seizures, can cause rapid blinking or a few seconds of staring into space.
- Tonic-clonic seizures, also called grand mal seizures, can make a person
- Cry out.
- Lose consciousness.
- Fall to the ground.
- Have muscle jerks or spasms.
The person may feel tired after a tonic-clonic seizure.
- Focal seizures are located in just one area of the brain. These seizures are also called partial seizures.
- Simple focal seizures affect a small part of the brain. These seizures can cause twitching or a change in sensation, such as a strange taste or smell.
- Complex focal seizures can make a person with epilepsy confused or dazed. The person will be unable to respond to questions or direction for up to a few minutes.
- Secondary generalized seizures begin in one part of the brain, but then spread to both sides of the brain. In other words, the person first has a focal seizure, followed by a generalized seizure.
Seizures may last as long as a few minutes.