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Mar 01, 2020

It can be quite frightening to witness someone have a seizure, but you need not panic if you’re prepared. It’s important to know what to look for, what to do and that not all seizures are emergencies or have permanent negative effects.

Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder which causes seizures. It affects 1 in every 100 people in SA and about 50 million people worldwide. About 75% of people with epilepsy have their first seizures before the age of 20.

Types of seizures

There are two main types of seizures: focal onset and generalised seizures. A person experiencing a focal onset seizure is usually awake and aware, but can’t control a localised movement or twitch. They may seem to zone out and not remember anything afterwards.

Generalised seizures are the most well-known. Those who experience this type of seizure are rarely aware of what is happening and may need professional medical help.

How do you know if someone is having a seizure?

There are a few things of which you should be aware, especially if you know someone who is epileptic. Here are a few things to look out for: The person –

  • may be completely unresponsive and suddenly collapse.
  • becomes rigid for a few seconds due to clenched muscles.
  • starts to convulse, which can last from a few seconds to several minutes.
  • stops convulsing and becomes conscious.
  • may be disoriented or confused for a while.

How you can help:

Although you can’t stop a seizure, you can protect the person who is having a seizure from harm. Someone having a generalise seizure usually has an increased chance of injury due to uncontrolled thrashing movements. This is how you can help:

  • In the case of a minor seizure, guide the person away from potential danger, such as stairs.
  • Keep other people out of the way and clear all objects away from the person, even during a minor seizure.
  • In the instance of a generalise seizure, place the person on their side to keep their airway open.
  • Don’t try to stop the movements or hold the person down as this could cause you injury.
  • Time the length of the seizure if possible.
  • Report the seizure to the person’s doctor and if necessary, call an ambulance. Bestmed members should call ER24 at 084 124.

So, there is no reason to panic if someone has a seizure in your presence. Make sure that the they can’t hurt themselves and call an ambulance if necessary, but always report a seizure to the person’s doctor.

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