What you do when you witness a seizure depends on what is actually happening to the person.
- Some people remain conscious during their seizure. They know what is happening but still they are unable to control it. Imagine how scary it can be to be completely aware of your movements but being completely helpless to do anything about them.
- Some people undergoing seizure look aware but really aren’t. Their eyes are open. They make some sort of response when you talk to them. But in fact, their perception of reality is already affected. There may not be any convulsions. The person may be able to walk and talk but not know what they are saying or doing. It is best to have a companion or two when handling people undergoing this type of seizure.
- Seizure patients can lose consciousness. This is called a grand mal seizure. It is the type of seizure most of us know about.
If you see someone experiencing a grand mal, take steps to prevent that person from harm:
· Help the person lie down gently on the floor.
· Put soft padding under the person’s head.
· Turn the person on the side to prevent choking in case vomiting occurs.
· Remove eyeglasses, neckties, pens, or any other hard or sharp or constrictive things on or around the person that may cause injury.
· If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, get emergency medical help.1
Regardless of conditions, you should always get emergency medical help if1
· This is the first time the person has experienced a seizure.
· The person has a hard time breathing or waking up after the seizure.
· A second seizure happens soon after the first.
· The person is injured during the seizure.
· The person who underwent the seizure is pregnant or has a health condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
· The seizure occurred in water. (Even if the person seems to have fully recovered, still get medical help because the person may have inhaled water that could cause heart or lung damage.)6
It is also important to know what not to do during or after a seizure:
· Do not restrain the person; you might inadvertently hurt the person or get hurt yourself.
· Do not put anything in the person’s mouth, thinking this will prevent biting or swallowing of the tongue. The latter is impossible; the former may happen but it is not as serious as the person’s teeth or jaw getting injured from having a hard object in the mouth while undergoing a grand mal.
· Do not do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). People usually start breathing on their own once the seizure is over.
· To prevent choking, do not let the person eat or drink until you are sure the person is fully alert and the seizure is over.
Seizures are not simple medical issues, but seizure first aid is not complex. The main thing that first aiders need to focus on is keeping the patients from injuring themselves: Keep them in a safe place, away from dangerous objects. Keep watch over them until they have fully regained consciousness and control.