| How Do You Treat Seizures?
What Is A Seizure?
Seizures are also known as fits or convulsions. They are caused by an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain, resulting in involuntary contractions of the body's muscles and unconsciousness.
There are many causes of seizures, including poisoning, drugs, head injury, lack of oxygen and illness. The most common cause however in adults is epilepsy. In young children the most common cause is a high temperature.
Minor epileptic - or petit mal - fits cause nothing more than a moment of blurring of consciousness or a lapse of attention. The person may suddenly 'go blank' or lose track of what was being done or said.
• Sudden inattention or staring blankly straight ahead.
• Slight twitching of lips, eyelids or head.
• Strange involuntary movements such as lip-smacking, making odd noises or fiddling with clothing.
What To Do
Get the person to sit down. Remove any potential dangers such as hot drinks. Talk calmly and reassuringly but avoid asking any unnecessary questions. Stay with the person until completely recovered. Advise reporting the episode to a doctor if the person is not aware of the condition.
Major epileptic - or grand mal - fits are much more dramatic and more serious than petit mal. In some cases, the person feels a premonition or 'aura' before they happen, or notices a particular taste or smell.
• Person falls to the ground, possibly with a cry, and loses consciousness.
• The body becomes rigid; the back arches.
• Breathing may stop, lips and ears turn blue or face and neck become slightly swollen.
• Convulsions (rhythmical, jerky movements), sometimes with clenched jaw, noisy breathing or incontinence (may wet themselves).
• After return of muscle control, normal breathing resumes and consciousness returns, usually within minutes.
What To Do
If possible, protect the person when falling. Move any hard or dangerous objects well away. Loosen clothing at the neck and protect the head. Do not attempt to put anything in the mouth.
After convulsions stop, place the person in the recovery position. Stay until she is fully recovered. Dial for an ambulance if this is the first fit, if there are repeated fits or if unconsciousness lasts more than 10 minutes.
NOTE: Never use force or restraint during an epileptic fit. Never attempt to give water or anything else by mouth.
Seizures In Children
Fits are uncommon in babies under 18 months, but not in young children, particularly when there is a very high temperature. Although they can be alarming for parents, such episodes are rarely dangerous if treated sensibly. Nevertheless, any convulsions in a child should be taken seriously. Always talk to a doctor even if there is a rapid and dramatic recovery. There may be an underlying problem that needs treatment.
• A high temperature; hot, flushed skin; sometimes sweating.
• Violent muscle twitching, clenched fists and arched back.
• Fixed or upturned eyes.
• Breathing problems, holding the breath.
What To Do
Remove clothing and bedclothes. Ensure a supply of cool, fresh air but do not make the child too cold. Sponge with lukewarm water from head to toe and place pillows or other soft padding all around the child to prevent accidental injury.
Ensure that the child's airways are open (lift the child's chin with one hand and press down on the forehead with the other to open the windpipe) and telephone your doctor for advice or, failing that, call an ambulance.
Other First Aid Treatments
How to treat electric shock: What to do if someone is electrocuted.
How to stop someone choking: Quick action for choking.
How to treat poisoning: In children and adults, first aid.
Head problems: Things that can go wrong with the head.
How to treat someone in shock: Immediate emergency care.
How to treat heatstroke: Excess heat turns dangerous.
How to treat alcohol poisoning: Plus, how to recognize the signs.
• Other health issues? See: How to treat common illnesses.
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