A full-scale epileptic seizure involves violent jerking of the limbs, facial twitching, and foaming at the mouth due to saliva being blown through clenched teeth. The seizure may last for a few minutes and the patient may need several hours in which to recover.
Symptoms and signs – Not all may be present
- jerking or twitching of the face and limbs
- foaming at the mouth
- loss of consciousness
- loss of control of bladder and/or bowel
- blue/purple skin colour and blue lips
- flushed and dry skin in a child having a feverish convulsion
How you can help
1. Protect the patient from injury
- Check the immediate area for hazards and remove them if possible. Move furniture away from the person, but take special care with electrical appliances or cooking utensils to avoid a burn or scald.
- If the patient is close to a wall or hard furniture, pad the area with clothing or a pillow to avoid further injury.
DO NOT move or try to restrain the patient’s movements because this may result in a broken bone or soft tissue injury.
DO NOT try to pad between the patient’s teeth because this may damage the tissues in the mouth.
2. Manage the seizure or convulsion
- Stay with the patient until the seizure ends.
- If in a public place, keep bystanders clear and reassure them that the seizure will end soon.
If the seizure does not stop after 5 minutes – call for an ambulance.
3. After the seizure
- As soon as the seizure ends, quickly roll the unconscious patient onto their side and open and clear the airway.
- Cover the patient lightly with a coat or blanket. Check that normal breathing has resumed.
- Allow the patient to sleep until fully recovered, but check for a response every few minutes.
If the patient does not wake up within 10 minutes, is not breathing well, or it is their first seizure – call for an ambulance.
- Check for a MedicAlert pendant or bracelet stating that the wearer suffers from epilepsy.
- Check for any injuries and apply necessary first aid.
- Reassure the patient as full consciousness is restored.
- Advise the patient not to drive. Try to arrange for someone to be with the patient until safely home.
- Advise the patient to contact their doctor to report the seizure and check that any prescribed medication is adequate.
- If the patient is known to have epilepsy, there is no need for medical aid or an ambulance unless the seizure lasted more than 5 minutes or a second seizure followed. If it is the first known seizure, medical advice is vital to avoid any future complications.
Convulsions in infants and young children may occur following a sudden rise in body temperature. This is commonly associated with infections. Such convulsions without complications from the underlying illness do not cause damage or result in epilepsy.
How you can help
1. Ensure the child’s safety from any hazards
2. Remove all clothing
- Cool the child slowly by uncovering them down to a nappy or pants.
Avoid giving anything to drink until the child is fully conscious.
3. Wait until the convulsion ends
4. Open and clear the airway
5. Reassure parents
If not breathing normally after the seizure – call for an ambulance.
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