Epilepsy: – Do you know what to do?
Epilepsy is a condition that can start at any age and is often lifelong. With treatment, seizures can be reduced or in some cases stopped completely. Seizures can vary depending on what part of the brain is affected and can range from:
- Uncontrollable jerking and shaking (a fit)
- Losing awareness and staring blankly into space
- Becoming stiff or rigid
- Having strange sensations such as a ‘rising’ feeling in the tummy, unusual smells or tastes and tingling feelings in arms or legs.
- Confusion and passing out.
A tonic-clonic seizure, is what most people think of as a typical epileptic fit.
They happen in two stages – an initial “tonic” stage, shortly followed by a second “clonic” stage:
- Tonic – you lose consciousness, your body goes stiff, and you may fall to the floor
- Clonic – your limbs jerk about, you may lose control of your bladder or bowel, you may bite your tongue or the inside of your cheek, and you might have difficulty breathing
The seizure normally stops after a few minutes, but some last longer. Afterwards, you may have a headache or difficulty remembering what happened and feel tired or confused.
An absence seizure is where you lose awareness of your surroundings for a short time. They mainly affect children, but can happen at any age.
During an absence seizure, a person may:
- stare blankly into space
- look like they’re “daydreaming”
- flutter their eyes
- make slight jerking movements of their body or limbs
The seizures usually only last up to 15 seconds and you won’t be able to remember them. They can happen several times a day.
So what do we do?
The key is, has this happened before? If its the first time, may i introduce the 5 minutes guide where we suggest medical help
- If the casualty is unresponsive for more than 5 minutes
- If the seizure last for more than 5 minutes
- If the seizures are repeated
- It’s their first seizure. If you don’t know assume that it is
Then these are all circumstances where the casualty should attend a hospital.
In the workplace we can manage these episodes with a calm assurance by way of what we cal a ‘PIP’ a Personal Injury Plan. This is where a person elects to share their personal medical status with the workplace and a PIP is subsequently written to manage that condition should it occur.
A typical PIP may state:
- The first person in attendance make the area safe for the casualty
- Call for help and record the duration of the seizure
- Clear a private pathway to a private area with a shower or cleaning facilities
- Maintain a spare set of clothes
- Remain with the casualty in a calm space until they have fully recovered
We have moved on from a time when sufferers were strapped or held down. A time when mouths were forced open using a variety of household implements. The advice now is to simply keep the casualty safe in an area and manner where they cannot hurt themselves. Protect the head to prevent the head colliding into solid objects or surfaces. Don’t forget our 5 minute guide.
People who suffer from epilepsy quite often know when they about to have an episode. These are commonly known as seizure triggers.
For many people with epilepsy, seizures seem to happen randomly.
But sometimes they can have a trigger, such as:
- a lack of sleep
- waking up
- drinking alcohol
- some medications and illegal drugs
- in women, monthly periods
- flashing lights (this is an uncommon trigger)
Keeping a diary of when you have seizures and what happened before them can help you identify and avoid some possible triggers.
Epilepsy can be controlled by Anti Epileptic Drugs. It is important that patients who have been prescribed these medicines follow the prescribed dosage and frequency as prescribed.