ST JOHN AMBULANCE: How to deal with seizures in adults

Seizures usually result in loss or impairment of consciousness
Seizures usually result in loss or impairment of consciousness
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St John Ambulance, the nation’s leading first aid charity, has teamed up with the Herald and Gazette to bring you some simple, but life saving, first aid tips – This week: dealing with seizures in adults.

A seizure – also called a convulsion or fit – consists of involuntary contractions of many muscles in the body.

The condition is due to a disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain.

Seizures usually result in loss or impairment of consciousness.

The most common cause is epilepsy. Other causes include:

• Head injury.

• Some brain damaging diseases.

• Shortage of oxygen or glucose in the brain.

• The intake of certain poisons including alcohol or drugs.

Epileptic seizures are due to recurrent, major disturbances of brain activity.

These seizures can be sudden and dramatic.

Just before a seizure, a casualty may have a brief warning period (aura) with, for example, a strange feeling or a special smell or taste.

General recognition features are:

• Sudden unconsciousness.

• Rigidity and arching of the back.

• Convulsive movements.

In epilepsy the following sequence is common:

• The casualty suddenly falls unconscious, often letting out a cry.

• They become rigid, arching their back.

• Breathing may cease. The lips may show a grey-blue tinge (cyanosis) and the face and neck may become red and puffy.

• Convulsive movements begin. The jaw may be clenched and breathing may be noisy. Saliva may appear at the mouth and may be blood-stained if the lips or tongue have been bitten. There may be loss of bladder or bowel control.

• Muscles relax and breathing becomes normal; the casualty recovers consciousness, usually within a few minutes. They may feel dazed or act strangely. They may be unaware of their action.

• After a seizure, the casualty may feel tired and fall into a deep sleep.

This is what you can do to help:

• If you see the casualty falling, try to ease the fall.

• Make space around them; ask bystanders to move away.

• Remove potentially dangerous items, such as hot drinks and sharp objects.

• Note the time when the seizure started.

• If possible, protect the casualty’s head by placing soft padding underneath it.

• Loosen clothing around the neck.

When the seizure has ended:

• Open the airway and check breathing.

• Be prepared to give rescue breaths and chest compressions if breathing has stopped.

• Place them into the recovery position if the casualty is unconscious but breathing normally.

• Monitor and record vital signs – level of response, pulse and breathing.

• Note the duration of the seizure.

Do not move the casualty unless they are in immediate danger.

Do not put anything in their mouth or use force to restrain them.

If any of the following apply, dial 999 for an ambulance:

• The casualty is having repeated seizures or having their first seizure.

• The casualty is not aware of any reason for the seizure.

• The seizure continues for more than five minutes.

• The casualty is unconscious for more than ten minutes.

• The casualty has sustained an injury to another part of the body.

• For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website {http://www.sja.org.uk/sja/default.aspx |(www.sja.org.uk)|www.sja.org.uk} offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice. For more information about first aid courses please call 0303 003 0101.

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