What to Do:
Someone’s on the ground. His limbs are twitching and jerking. You’re the first person to get to him. What should you do?
First, stay calm! The victim is already terrified enough without his Good Samaritan freaking out. But let’s be honest, seeing someone collapse and twitch on the ground is scary.
When you reach him, check if he’s breathing and see if anything is obstructing his airway. Once you’re reassured that he is breathing, check for a medical bracelet or necklace. If it there is none, call an ambulance immediately.
Don’t move him. Instead, move anything near him that could possibly harm him.
Cushion his head with anything available–especially if his head is jerking and hitting the ground.
Loosen tight clothing, such as belts and ties, and remove any necklaces.
Move him gently to his side once the episode subsides so that he avoids choking on his own saliva or vomit.
If he’s conscious, don’t offer him a snack while you wait for help–a choking hazard is the last thing your new friend needs.
Stay with him until the seizure is over or until help arrives.
Later, write down the details of the seizure for the victim’s and his doctors’ benefit.
Know What You’re Looking For
Of course, you’re not going to be very helpful if you can’t recognize a seizure. So your last (it should be the first) piece of advice is to learn more about seizures.
What’s a Seizure?
Seizures are essentially an interruption in normal function due to excessive electrical activity in the brain. Every year, 300,000 people in the United States experience their first seizure attack, while 3 million Americans already suffer from seizures. While it’s a shock to see someone in that vulnerable state, it shouldn’t be such a surprise. Despite its prevalence, seizures are still a mystery. About 50% of seizures have no known cause.
Kinds of Seizures
There are several types of seizures. The most common seizure is the “Grand Mal” or general seizure. “General” refers to the entire brain’s wiring being overloaded. The victim will fall unconscious and experience stiffening muscles and then jerking movements. He may even lose control of their bladder–an embarrassing situation.
General seizures also include absence, myoclonic, clonic, and atonic seizures. Victims of absence seizures may suddenly stop an activity and stare into space for a few seconds. Myoclonic seizures are sudden and victims experience brief “jerking” of the muscles, while in clonic seizures, there is repeated jerking. Atonic seizures simply make the muscles loose strength.
Smaller seizures occur when only some parts of the brain are overloaded. The victim stays conscious, but he experiences either physical (jerking), psychological (sudden anger or fear), or sensory (strange tastes) seizures. While they’re not as severe, they can still disturb the victim’s everyday functioning.
Complex Partial Seizures
Complex partial seizures include lip-smacking, screaming, or laughing. People won’t be aware of their behavior and “zone out” until the end of the seizure.
Most of the time, seizures do not need immediate medical attention. But these episodes can be caused by a variety of things. So if the seizure is unusual for the patient, or you know that the patient is a diabetic, call an ambulance.