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Understanding Epilepsy and how you can help!

Epilepsy Awareness

Do you know how to help if someone has an epileptic seizure? There are some simple ways you can help, and by knowing these, you could potentially save somebody’s life. According to the Epilepsy Society, over 500,000 people have epilepsy in the UK, that’s approximately one in every 100 people. Meanwhile, around the world, roughly 60 million people are affected by epilepsy.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which affects the brain and also affects the body through seizures. Epileptic seizures happen when there is a sudden burst of intense electrical activity in the brain, which causes a temporary disruption to the way it works and its messages can become mixed up, resulting in an epileptic seizure.

There are over 40 different types of epileptic seizures and depending on which part of the brain is affected and how far it spreads determines what can happen to someone during their seizure. Some side effects may include:

  • Go blank for a little while
  • Be unaware, confused
  • Collapse to the floor and jerk/shake uncontrollably
  • Have uncommon sensations, feelings, movements

Most seizures can happen suddenly and will last a short time from a few seconds to a few minutes. Usually, they will stop by themselves but can be different for each person.

What you can do to help someone having a seizure

There are two different types of epilepsy and seizures, tonic-clonic or focal seizures, and here we look at how you can recognise the type of seizure and can help.

Tonic-clonic seizure

A tonic-clonic seizure is a more commonly recognised seizure where someone collapses to the floor, goes stiff, loses consciousness and begins to jerk or shake uncontrollably. The person may begin to bite their tongue or the inside of their mouth, go blue around the mouth due to irregular breathing, and they may also lose control of their bladder or bowels.

What you should do:

  • Remove any hazards surrounding them
  • Cushion their head
  • Time how long the seizure lasts
  • Look to see if they have an epilepsy card or identity jewellery which can supply vital information about their seizure
  • After they have stopped shaking place them in the recovery position
  • Stay with them until they are fully recovered and regained consciousness
  • Be calm and reassure them

Call for an ambulance if the seizure lasts for more than five minutes, if you know it is their first seizure, if they become injured or you believe they need urgent medical attention.

What you should not do:

  • Hold them down or restrain their movements
  • Put anything in their mouth
  • Move them unless in a dangerous situation
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them around

Focal seizures

If someone is experiencing a focal seizure, they might not be aware of what they are doing or their surroundings. Their movements and behaviour may be unusual and could consist of tugging at their clothes, swallowing repeatedly, wandering around or hitting their lips.

What you should do:

  • Lead them away from danger (roads or water)
  • Stay with them until they have recovered
  • Be calm and reassure them
  • Explain anything to them afterwards that they might not remember

What you should not do:

  • Restrain them or hold them
  • Frighten them, shout at them or make abrupt movements
  • Assume they know what is happening
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they have recovered fully
  • Attempt to bring them around

Call for an ambulance if the seizure lasts for more than five minutes, if you know it is their first seizure, if they become injured or you believe they need urgent medical attention.

If you suffer from or develop epilepsy, it has been suggested that the ketogenic diet (KD) which is a high fat, low carbohydrate and controlled protein diet can help with the treatment of epilepsy, but speak to your doctor about ways you can control seizures.


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