A couple of centuries back, if the person next to you had an epileptic fit, you would most likely brand them as being possessed by the devil. However, now you know better.
One thing though that would not have changed is the feeling of panic that is bound to set in when you see them lose consciousness – or worse, thrash about.
How you can be of assistance to the person may depend on the kind of seizures they have.
Scientists have more than 20 dissimilar kinds of seizures. They are classified as either partial or generalized with subdivisions in both categories. 65% of people with epilepsy experience partial seizures and the rest 35% have generalized seizures.
• Grand Mal - During grand mal seizure, the person will become unconscious and fall down. The whole body will stiffen up, and then twitch or jerk uncontrollably. During seizure, breathing is either absent or very irregular – but there might be an initial cry. The sufferer usually cannot recollect the seizure. Status epileptics or long seizures could be very dangerous if emergency treatment is not provided.
• Absence Seizures – Mainly occurring in children, these seizures cause a momentary loss of consciousness without any abnormal movements. The person blanks out for a few seconds, and cannot later recollect it. An innocent bystander would believe that the sufferer may be daydreaming or is being inattentive – and sometimes these attacks even pass without any notice.
• Partial Seizures – These are divided into simple ones where there is consciousness and complex ones, where there is not. In simple partial seizures which last several minutes, there occurs an abnormal twitching movement and tingling sensation in which there sometimes occurs hallucination of smell, vision or taste.
The twitching can spread from one part of the body to the other on the same side. The person knows about it and can recall the details. Complex partial seizures have the person becoming dazed and unresponsive. Involuntary actions like fumbling with buttons or smacking lips may occur.
Most major epileptic seizures last only a minute or two and demand little of bystanders. All that is necessary is to let the attack run its course and to ensure that the person is in no physical danger and can breathe while he or she is unconscious. In any case, this is the first aid procedure you can resort to -
• For small fits, when the person just blanks out without falling down or fainting – just gentle talking and reassurance is necessary, filling them in about whatever they missed during those few seconds. Escort them somewhere harmless, if required.
• If they are having a major fit — for instance, falling to the ground with loss of consciousness and jerking body movements — don't pin them down.
• Take care that the sufferer does not hurt himself or herself. Place their heads on a soft surface and loosen their clothes if they have trouble in breathing.
• In case they get nauseous, lay them on their side so that they do not have trouble breathing when they vomit.
• Do not put anything in their mouth or force their mouth open – doing so may hurt the area.
• When the fit has ended, turn them on their side, comfort them - tell them where they are and that they have had a fit.
• Watching someone have an epileptic fit is very alarming — it can appear to go on forever; stay very composed and try not to panic.
Absence seizure may seem cruelly hilarious and harmless – though the other sorts of seizures may require active intervention. Having knowledge of epileptic fit may come in handy someday – so that you can take ‘fit’ action in an emergency!
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