There is a lot of dangerous misinformation out there about what you should do when someone is having a seizure. Doing the wrong thing can actually lead to injury, while doing the right thing can help keep someone safe in a scary and potentially dangerous scenario.
Given that one in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives, there is a good chance that you will encounter someone who is having a seizure. However, you may not even recognize it. Seizures rarely look like they do in movies, and old advice like sticking a spoon in someone’s mouth can be very dangerous. Read on to learn more.
WHAT IS A SEIZURE?
A seizure is uncontrolled brain activity.
WHAT DOES A SEIZURE LOOK LIKE?
Some seizures have no visible signs. Chronic seizures are the ones that come with big differences. Someone having one of these seizures may stiffen and relax their muscles, clench their teeth, convulse or shake, fall to the floor, be or appear unconscious, flail their arms or legs, twitch, drool, scream, or make other sounds. Seizures usually last one to three minutes. After a seizure, someone may be disoriented or confused.
ARE SEIZURES MEDICAL EMERGENCIES?
Seizures are not usually medical emergencies, but sometimes they can be. You should call 911 if a seizure lasts longer than five minutes, the person does not wake up after they stop seizing, the person has breathing problems after the seizure, the person is injured during the seizure, the person is aggressive after the seizure, the person has another known medical condition that could be affected by the seizure.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP SOMEONE WHO IS HAVING A SEIZURE?
Take the person to a safe place. This may not mean actually moving the person, but you can take steps to make the place safer. Remove nearby sharp objects, get the seizing person out of the water and away from the top of stairs.
Turn the person on their side. This may help keep the airway clear and remove saliva that the person could choke on.
WHAT SHOULD I AVOID IF SOMEONE IS HAVING A SEIZURE?
Putting something in their mouth.
Trying to hold them down.
Walking away immediately after the seizure. The time after the seizure can be disorienting; stay with the person until you know they are safe.
Offering food, drink, or medication during or immediately after a seizure.
By following these rules, you can increase the person’s safety if they have a seizure while you are around.
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