Seizures can be sudden and dramatic. St Mark James Training teaches you to keep calm in this situation and seize control to keep the patient safe.
I had a recent experience of witnessing an adult having a seizure and as shocking as it can look, the care is simple and my First Aid Certification taught me how to deal with this situation quickly and confidently. No matter what causes seizures, the treatment is always the same. The main priority for a first aider is to maintain the patients airway and protect them.
A seizure involves involuntary contractions of muscles in the body. They can also be called convulsions or fits but are essentially the same thing.
Seizures are caused by recurrent disturbances in the electrical activity in the brain. There are many different reasons for this; epilepsy, head injury, brain-damaging diseases, lack of oxygen, lack of glucose, or poisons such as alcohol.
There are different types of seizures. Some people have what are called ‘absence’ seizures where they have episodes of being distant or unaware of their surroundings. These can sometimes be followed by a full seizure.
St Mark James First Aid manual says full seizures are generally recognised by sudden unconsciousness, frequently with the patient crying out. They will become rigid and arch their back. Sometimes the patient stops breathing and their face will become red and puffy and their lips may begin to turn blue. This is then followed by the convulsions, as the rigid muscles try to relax. The patient may salivate and sometimes be incontinent.
Try to maintain a safe environment by clearing any potentially dangerous objects out of the way. If possible, try to place something soft, such as a pillow or clothing, under the patients head to protect them from damage. Do not touch or try to move the patient whilst they are having a seizure.
Take note of the time the seizure started so you will be able to tell the emergency services how long the fit lasted. If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes call for an ambulance.
When the seizure has finished, open the patients airway by tilting their head up using a ‘chin thrust’ which is taught in First Aid Classes. Check if they are breathing, and be ready to begin CPR if needed.
If they are breathing, place the patient into the recovery position to protect their airway as taught in St Mark James Training. Continue to monitor their pulse, breathing and level of responsiveness. Talk to the patient in a calm and reassuring way. They should come round within 10 minutes, if they do not call an ambulance.
It is also important to phone for an ambulance if the patient doesn’t know of any reason for having a seizure. Some patients may be epileptic and are used to having seizures every now and then. If the seizure is unexpected, longer than 5 minutes, the patients first seizure, they are unconsciousness for longer than 10 minutes or if they have had repeated seizures then call for the emergency services.
When the patient regains consciousness, they may be dazed or confused and have some memory loss. Seizures are very tiring and the patient may fall into a deep sleep after the seizure.
To sum up, as a First Aider treating an adult who has had a seizure, your role is to protect them from injury, give care when they come round, and arrange further assessment or treatment at hospital if required. First Aid Classes teach you the valuable skills needed for this type of situation and I found the knowledge very helpful when it happened to me!