March has been labelled Epilepsy Awareness Month thanks to Epilepsy Australia’s initiative to reduce stigma and discrimination of epilepsy around the nation. According to Epilepsy Action Australia approximately 3% – 3.5% of Australians will experience epilepsy throughout their lives which means a minimum of 723,900 Australians are directly affected by the condition.
However, it’s important to know that not all seizures are epilepsy related and can be caused by a number of factors. Seizures can be nerve-wracking for anyone to witness so it’s critical that all Aussies know how to provide seizure First Aid when the health event occurs. What not to do is just as crucial as what you should do, for your own safety and the safety of the casualty.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder which causes two types of seizures: convulsive and non-convulsive. For a person to be diagnosed with epilepsy they will have experienced a number of seizures.
Up to 10% of the Australian population is at risk of suffering a seizure throughout their life, but just 3 – 4% will be diagnosed with epilepsy.
Epilepsy isn’t always a permanent disorder but people who are diagnosed with the condition do need to remain diligent in monitoring its impact.
Seizures are not exclusively caused by epilepsy. Non-epileptic seizures can be caused by diabetes, blocked blood vessels, high fever, head trauma, stroke and many other health conditions.
There are many different types of seizures which are caused by different reasons. The most common seizures include:
Tonic-Clonic seizures were previously labelled grand mal seizures. They generally last between one to three minutes. If a tonic-clonic seizure lasts more than five minutes or a number of seizures occur consecutively the seizure is classed as a health emergency and you must call an ambulance immediately.
Throughout a tonic-clonic seizure the body will collapse and stiffen (tonic stage). Air will then gush past the vocal chords and cause a moan or whimper. The person may bite their tongue or cheek, so if you see blood discharging from the mouth do not be alarmed. The person’s limbs will then start to jerk in powerful motions (clonic stage). The person may drool, display a blue or red complexion, or lose control of their bladder and/or bowel.
When the person begins to regain consciousness they may be confused, lethargic, agitated or low in mood. Often people will have a headache and want to have a nap post seizure which is fine for them to do.
Throughout the seizure:
After the seizure:
Call triple zero (000) if:
Febrile convulsions in infants and children are often due to fever, infection or epilepsy. The onset of convulsions in infants and young children can be caused by a sudden increase in temperature. Febrile convulsions generally do not exceed five minutes.
Note: it is rare for high temperatures to cause convulsions in adults but it can happen
Throughout the convulsion:
After the convulsion:
Note: do NOT bathe or cool the child with a sponge bath, DO remove excess or restrictive clothing to cool their fever down.
Seizures can be very confronting for anyone to witness. With up to 10% of Australians at risk of suffering from a seizure, it’s essential that all Australians are informed on how to provide seizure First Aid. By being educated and prepared with seizure First Aid you can dramatically reduce anxiety in a stressful situation and ensure the person receives the best possible care.
Remember, having a seizure does not mean that someone is epileptic but it’s important to seek medical advice afterwards to ensure there are no wider health issues.