Awareness and First Aid

Witnessing a seizure can be scary. The person having the seizure has no control of themselves and onlookers often don’t know what to do.

But with the correct knowledge, you can help in this situation, explains Brian Allchin, Branch Manager for ER24 Pretoria/Midstream.

What causes a seizure?

Seizure triggers depend on what’s going on in a person’s current environment, and possibly their lifestyle, says Allchin. “For instance, it could be that someone who has epilepsy is exposed to flashing lights. Alternatively, substance abuse can also cause complications that lead to seizures.”

Other factors that could cause seizures include heat stroke and exhaustion, which can lead to an attack if there is an existing chemical imbalance in the body.

Signs and symptoms of a seizure

“Some people just drop and have a seizure unexpectantly,” Allchin says, “but there are also some tell-tale signs that show when someone is going to have a seizure, such as staring blankly and appearing absent.”

Once they’re having the seizure the person will have no control of their body. “They may even become incontinent and foam from the mouth.” Other dangers include biting their tongue, and sometimes they may even stop breathing.

What to do when someone has a seizure

Allchin says there isn’t much you can do for the person during the seizure. “Sometimes their arms and legs will be flailing. The best thing bystanders can do is let the person have the seizure and clear away any obstacles that could get in the way while it’s occurring.”

When the seizure is done, the patient will stop and breathe slowly and deeply. At this point you can help by turning them on their side in the recovery position and allowing them to catch their breath. “Once they come around to their surroundings, they might be shy and feel ashamed that they’ve had a seizure in public view, and potentially wet themselves.”

How medics treat seizures

In most cases, paramedics arrive after the seizure has occurred. Allchin says they usually check the patient’s level of consciousness and how responsive they are. “All vital signs are taken, and intravenous therapy (IV) is started in case the patient has a lapse and starts seizing again.” They will also ask for the patient’s history, which can indicate why the seizure occurred or what caused it.

Reacting fast is essential after the seizure has stopped, especially since the person can also stop breathing during the attack. Allchin says the patient must also be taken to a medical facility for testing after the seizure has stopped. This is to determine if a cerebral vascular accident, pressure on the brain or some other reversible condition may have caused the seizure.

Call the ER24 Contact Centre at 084 124 for real help, real fast in an emergency. A trained consultant will walk you through what to do before help arrives.