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Seizures: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Before You Put the Band-Aid On

It's often said that placing a pencil or tongue depressor between the teeth of a person having a seizure helps prevent him or her from biting off the tongue.

Wrong. Although it's almost been de rigueur in health education (and movies about Alexander the Great and Caesar of Rome), this technique does nothing. The worst that can happen is that a person will bite his or her tongue and it will bleed. If you place something else in the person's mouth like a pencil or tongue depressor, he or she may break it and swallow part of it.

After the Fall: Treatment When the Seizure Is Over

After the victim comes out of a convulsion, there are some first aid steps to take to ensure comfort and safety:

  1. Call for emergency help. If possible, try not to leave the victim's side (in case there are any complications).
  2. Check for any medic alert bracelets or neck tags, if the person is not a family member or close friend. It is possible the person is an epileptic or has another condition that requires specific medical attention. Be ready to tell the emergency team when they arrive.
  3. Check the victim's breathing. If he or she is still not breathing, or breathing with difficulty, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  4. As the person comes out of the seizure, do not startle him or her. Do not act panicky or ask any questions. Let him or her rest. After a seizure, a person might be confused, very sleepy, or even combative and violent. Don't be alarmed. It's a normal part of “coming out” of a seizure.
  5. Turn the person's head (or his or her entire body) to the side to prevent choking if he or she vomits.
  6. Observe whether there are any burns around the victim's mouth. If there are, it's possible the convulsions were due to poisoning.
  7. The person who suffered the seizure might fall into a deep sleep at this point. He or she might snore quite loudly. It's quite common and nothing to be alarmed about.

If a child starts having convulsions during the course of such childhood illnesses as measles or mumps, they could reflect serious problems in the nervous system. You should call your pediatrician immediately.

Seizures in Children

Although seizures in children are the most frightening of all, they, too, are relatively harmless after the convulsions have passed. In childhood, the first signs of epilepsy might appear. Further, high fever or severe gastrointestinal upsets can cause convulsions. Seizures can also become a permanent or temporary aftereffect of rheumatic fever.

However, it's important to seek medical care immediately if this is the first seizure you've seen. It can be a symptom of something serious, and medication might be needed.

If a child is having a seizure, you should follow the same first aid procedures as with an adult—with one exception. If the seizure is the result of high fever, follow these first aid steps instead of the earlier ones:

  1. Give your child baby ibuprofen or acetaminophen after the seizure has passed.
  2. Sponge him or her off with lukewarm water. (Warm water is more soothing than cold.)
  3. Never place your child in the tub. If your child has another seizure, he or she could drown!

These three measures should lower your child's temperature without causing dangerous side effects. By lowering the temperature, you decrease the chances of another seizure.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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