This short guide is going to be by no means be complete, and won’t be able to help every single case, but having some information is better than none, and taking a few moments to read may just save you, your friend, your family, or some random stranger from pain or even death.
Seizures can happen to anyone given the right circumstances!
This is written for grand mal seizures (the “stereotypical” seizure that comes to your mind when you hear “seizures”- someone faints, and starts convulsing all over his body).
- DO put the person having the seizure on the floor, laying him on his side. If he were standing, unfortunately, he probably ended up there on his own. Try to cushion the fall if possible, taking special precautions to his head. If he is sitting on a chair, then carefully (trying to not get hit), bring him to the floor and lay him on his side in an open space where he does not have any danger of knocking things over or hitting things to hurt himself.
- DO turn his head to the side on the floor. Many people having seizures vomit during the seizure, so do not put him on his back, or he may choke.
- DO loosen any collar or tie or anything constricting his body/neck/throat if possible. If the convulsions are too violent, don’t bother- you might end up hurting yourself or him.
- DO put something soft under the person’s head (a jacket or pillow if you have one) after you put him on his side so he does not damage his head while having the convulsions.
- DO keep track of how long the seizure was, where it started (his left leg? right arm?), the color of his skin (was his face turning green? purple?), and anything else that stuck out to you (what was he doing right before he got his seizure? where did he fall on? was there blood in the corner of his mouth (indication that he bit his tongue)?) so that you can convey it to the medical specialists who come.
- DO call the ambulance if the person is not known to have epilepsy or seizure disorder. If he does have seizure disorder/epilepsy, but the seizure continues for more than a few minutes, call the ambulance anyways. Especially if the color of his skin changes (could mean oxygen is not getting to the brain and rest of body).
- DON’T try to “stop” the seizure by hugging him or holding him down. It’s not going to happen. Let the seizure run its course. You can hurt either or both of you by clutching the person, whether it be the other person pulling muscles or you getting punched in the face.
- DON’T put anything in the person’s mouth. Those movies that tell you to stuff a piece of cloth into a seizing person’s mouth? Don’t. He can choke on it and die, or bite pieces of whatever it is and die. Some people vomit during seizures, and that and whatever is stuffed in the mouth will not go well together either- the fluid needs to come out, not get stuck in the mouth behind well-meaning but harmful towel.
- DON’T stick your finger or spoon or anything into the other person’s mouth, even if they have something in there. At best, your finger is going to get bitten very badly, and at worst, the person is going to chip his tooth on the spoon or slice up his mouth.
This is very important: When they regain consciousness, please try to be as calm as possible, especially if the person has never had a grand mal seizure before. It is very disorienting to wake up from a seizure, and often times the world is very dizzy and foggy. It takes at least a few minutes to “land back to earth” even after the initial “waking up,” so speak calmly, explain the situation slowly, and don’t get irritated when they don’t seem to understand what you are saying, or stare at you blankly.
I’ve developed an aversion to low, male voices talking in monotone, because that was what I woke up to almost every time after I had a seizure, but I came to realize after a while that the EMT were probably trained to speak that way so that I do not get frightened.
Please try to stay as calm as possible, and explain what was happening, and ask simple questions such as who he would like for you to contact, where his phone is, etc. But do not overwhelm him. (I’ve woken up to not being able to recite the address of my apartment or know the day of the week for a good 15 minutes.)
If possible, talk to the medical personnel that come or follow him to the emergency room so you can explain the situation to the doctor (if you can’t, give your phone number to the patient or the EMT so the ER doctor can contact you if necessary). He’s not going to remember anything, so it’s going to be up to you to let them know what happened.
Remember: Seizures can happen to anybody!