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Epilepsy: What to do in emergencies

Witnessing a person suffering from epilepsy (having a seizure) can be frightening because in extreme cases, it can involve thrashing of the limbs, biting the tongue and rolling eyes to the back of the head. Even though most seizures are generally not considered an emergency and do not require any external intervention, it is still good for people to possess knowledge of what is to be done in case a person does suffer from seizures.

Seizures occur when the brain experiences abnormal electrical activity. In some cases, they can go unnoticed while in others they can cause involuntary muscle spasms and even loss of consciousness. Their onset is sudden and their duration and severity varies from person to person.

Watch Dr. Atma Ram Bansal, a consultant neurologist at Medanta, Gurgaon talk about epilepsy and its management. He explains all the treatment options apart from regular medication therapy in treating epilepsy. 

Types of Seizures

Partial seizures: These begin in one part of the brain with the person being aware of what’s happening but is unable to control one’s body. After the seizure has finished, the person is unable to recall that particular memory.

Generalized seizures: These involve both sides of the brain simultaneously. Unlike in partial seizures, here the people are generally not aware of what’s happening to them during these seizures. They can be dangerous because as the person is unaware of his surroundings, he is unable to protect himself from harm. For example, if getting a seizure while driving, one can apply the brakes but in this case since the person is not even aware of having a seizure, the car just keeps driving on till it hits something or someone.

Convulsive seizures: These are the most severe types of seizures and they require immediate medical help.

If you know someone or witness someone having a fit of epilepsy, keep in mind the following tips to keep them safe and contained:

  • Make sure that the person is contained i.e. he or she is kept from harm’s way from other people. It is important they people remain away from them else there are chances of their being hurt.
  • Remove sharp objects away from that person.
  • Never try holding the person down or trying to control their seizure in any physical way. This will only cause you more harm.
  • If at all possible, place them on their side so that their airway is clear.
  • As soon as the seizure starts, make sure to note down the time it began, and the time it ended. The length of a seizure is important.
  • There is a popular misconception that when people have seizures, they swallow their tongues. This is not true. Do not try and cover their mouth or put anything inside it while they are having a seizure because it may cause them harm or injury. Or you may end up harming yourself it the patient bites you in the process.

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