Epileptic seizures: the right course of action


When helping someone experiencing an epileptic seizure, it is important to know how to respond as quickly as possible, because certain actions can save the life of someone with epilepsy.

In cases of low intensity epilepsy (petit mal), you don’t need to do anything other than making sure people are aware.

In cases of epileptic seizures involving the temporal lobe, strange behaviour can occur and consciousness may be compromised.

Action should be limited to monitoring the subject during the seizure to avoid them involuntarily harming other people or themselves.

What not to do:
- Do not try to rouse the patient by asking them questions: the patient may understand what has happened without being able to express themselves clearly.
- Do not try to limit the movements of the patient: this can trigger involuntary reactions.

Different approaches depending on the type of epileptic seizure

In the case of tonic-clonic epileptic seizures with convulsions:

Stop them from falling down;
- If the patient is already on the ground, place something soft under their head so that if the epileptic seizure lasts a long time, their head won’t bash against a hard surface;
- Once the seizure is over, the patient should be put on their side to allow saliva to drain and to help them to breathe normally;
- Stop crowds of people forming around the patient: the confusion won’t help them to calm down.

What not to do:

- Do not try to open their mouth;
- Under no circumstances should you insert an object into their mouth;
- Do not block their arms or legs;
These actions, in addition to not being helpful, are also dangerous: they can lead to broken teeth, intense muscle pain etc. In addition, the person trying to help may be injured by the epileptic patient.

In the case of status epilepticus, during which the epileptic seizure is prolonged without the patient regaining consciousness, or when the seizure is followed by other seizures, an ambulance needs to be called to take the patient to A&E.

For further information: NHS

Last updated: 16/09/2017

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