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First Aid 

Seizures

Seizures are characterized by an electrical disturbance in the brain and typically involve involuntary muscle contractions. Seizures usually cause impaired consciousness and can lead to injuries or falls. Seizures are most typically caused by epilepsy, but they can be caused by head injuries, oxygen or glucose shortages, certain diseases, and certain toxins such as alcohol or drugs. Seizures may also be caused by a high fever, especially in children. An individual may have a brief warning before a seizure occurs such as a specific feeling or a certain smell or taste. If someone is having a seizure, do not move them unless they are vomiting or in immediate danger and do not put anything in their mouth. Do not attempt to restrain anyone having a seizure. 

Seizure symptoms typically include:

  • Sudden loss of consciousness

  • Rigidity and arching of the back

  • Convulsions

  • Noisy or difficult breathing

  • Foaming at the mouth

  • Tongue biting

  • Possible bowel/bladder incontinence

To help someone who is having a seizure, take the following steps:

  1. Give the person space and remove any surrounding dangerous items. Ease the person to the floor and place them on their side. Record how long the seizure lasts.

  2. Place soft material such as a rolled up jacket under the head and neck and loosen tight clothing around the neck. If the person is having a febrile seizure, cool them by removing clothing and bedding and making sure there is a supply of fresh air. 

  3. When convulsions stop, check breathing and vital signs, and place the person on their side in the recovery position. 

  4. Monitor vital signs and call for emergency medical assistance if necessary. 

Seek medical care if any of the following is true:

  • The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes

  • This is the individual’s first seizure

  • The individual has difficulty awaking or breathing after the seizure

  • The individual has a second seizure following the first

  • The person is injured

  • The seizure occurs in water

  • The person is pregnant or has a history of diabetes or heart disease

Resources

Austin, M., Crawford, R., & Armstrong, V. J. (2014). First aid manual. (G. M. Piazza, Ed.) (5th ed.). DK Publishing. https://kuiyem.ku.edu.tr/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/American-College-of-Emergency-Physicians-ACEP-First-Aid-Manual.pdf.

Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Epilepsy - first aid and safety. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/epilepsy-first-aid-and-safety.  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 30). Seizure first aid. https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/about/first-aid.htm.