How to help someone who is having a fit

Patricia Lakay, 52, from Hanover Park, lying on the ground, and Melloney de Vos, 44, from Silvertown, practise the recovery position.

How to spot when somebody is having a seizure and how you can help them were among the topics discussed when the Helping Hands organisation recently held a workshop at the Athlone library.

Emergency medical technician, Samantha Adams, said seizures were most likely to occur in epileptic patients.

A seizure is caused when there is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. This can cause changes in your behaviour, movement or feelings, and in levels of consciousness.

Ms Adams said while most people who suffer from epilepsy are born with it, people can develop the condition over years after multiple seizures.

Ms Adams explained the phases of a seizure and how you can help.

“First the person may experience blurred vision, then will pick up a scent and tell you that they can smell something. The body may become rigid, the jaw clenched, and face bloodstained. They might even tell you that they are about to have a seizure – at this point remove any jewellery from the person and loosen the top button of their pants if it is too tight. They may then lose consciousness and their breathing and muscles may be affected. They may also lose control of their bowel movements so place something over their waist to avoid embarrassment. They may start shaking and sometimes foam can rise in their mouth but not often. The seizure can last for five to 10 minutes, thereafter call an ambulance,” she said.

Ms Adams said the patient may experience
all sorts of emotions afterwards, such as embarrassment, anger, confusion, and exhaustion.

“As the bystander, remain calm. Don’t put anything in their mouth, they cannot swallow their tongue. Place the patient in a recovery position (on their side), with an arm under their head, and remove anything from the scene which could hurt them. If possible, place something soft under the person’s head and pack something behind their back to keep them in the recovery position. Once the seizure has stopped, check for a pulse and if the person is okay, allow them to rest – they may be very tired,” she said.

She said it is important to let the seizure play itself out without holding the person down.

“Do not pour water on the person or burn anything under their nose,” she said.

The different causes of seizures include a lack of oxygen, fever, head injury, epilepsy and drug overdose, as well as alcohol abuse and taking the wrong medication.

She said infant convulsions are mainly caused by a high temperature, which could range from 39 degrees Celcius upwards. The normal body temperature is 35 to 37 degrees.

Ms Adams said when a child or infant experiences a seizure, place them on a bed and sponge them down over their vest. Once their temperature has gone down, remove the vest.

She said it was important to check the expiration date on medication and discard any old items.