Ten percent of all people will experience at least one seizure in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. Think about it, 1 in every 10 people you know will have a seizure. In the U.S., 3.4 million people live with epilepsy. This means we all need to be ready to act, as it is a matter of when, not if, we will witness a seizure. Will you know what to do?
Identifying a seizure
When most people think of a seizure, they think of someone whose entire body is alternating between rigidity and shaking for 1-3 minutes followed by a period of confusion. This generalized onset type of seizure is called a tonic-clonic seizure or Grand Mal. While this is certainly a seizure, it is not the only type of seizure. In another form of generalized onset seizure called an absence seizure or Petit Mal, the individual may only have a blank stare lasting a few seconds, occasionally with blinking or chewing motions. These can be difficult to catch.
Other Types of Seizures
The other category of seizures is focal onset seizures. In the first type of focal onset seizure, the individual may have a staring and dazed facial expression where they are not aware of what is going on or will not remember. They may perform repetitive random movements and may not be able to talk normally, typically lasting 1-2 minutes and confusion may follow afterward. These seizures were historically called complex partial seizures and are now known as focal onset impaired awareness seizures. The other type of focal onset seizure is one in which jerking can occur in one or more parts of the body or the individual may have sensory or perceptual changes that may or may not be obvious to onlookers. The person is aware of what occurs during the seizure. These seizures were historically called simple partial seizures and are now known as focal onset aware seizures.
The last two types of seizures are atonic or “drop attack” seizures and myoclonic seizures. In drop attacks, the individual will have a sudden collapse with recovery within a minute. In a myoclonic seizure, the individual will have a sudden, brief, and massive jerking involving all or part of the body.
What You Should Do
If you are witnessing someone having a seizure, here are some tips to keep the patient and others around, safe. At CorrHealth, our team members call them the three S’s;
STAY. SAFE. SIDE.
First, you should stay with the patient and start timing the seizure. Remember, seizures are common and although they look frightening, they rarely cause significant pathology, so remain calm. Next is keeping the patient safe. Move or guide the individual away from harmful objects. Lastly, turn the patient onto their side if they are not awake and aware. Put something small and soft under their head, loosen tight clothes around their neck, and do not block the airway. Never put anything in their mouth. Lastly, do not restrain the person. It is often important to keep hands on the individual to help guide them from objects that could injure them. It is reasonable in the correctional environment for security to stay close and even keep hands on the individual to ensure they do not become combative. The key is to avoid excess restraining force as individuals can be injured (dislocated shoulders, broken bones), and restraining leads to an increase in combativeness.
The final step in seizure management is knowing when to call 911.
1. If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes OR if the individual has repeated seizures, call 911.
2. If they had recent head trauma or a current illness, call 911.
3. If they are pregnant or have difficulty breathing after the seizure, call 911.
4. If the seizure occurs in water or they do not return to their usual state, call 911.
5. Lastly, for any first-time seizure, call 911.
Our responsibility as correctional healthcare providers is to provide the highest standard of care possible. At CorrHealth, compassionate patient care is our #1 priority. To find out more about us visit https://mycorrhealth.com/our-services/