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Types, symptoms and procedures for handling epileptic seizures--Part II

It is important for families, teachers and persons who work with persons affected by seizures to be aware of and be prepared to assist the victim when they occur. Seizures today are described in two major groups: 1). Primary Generalized Seizures; and 2) Partial Seizures (Brodtkorb, 2012). The differences between these types of seizures is in how and where they have their origins.

Primary generalized seizures reportedly start with a widespread electrical discharge that embraces both hemispheres of an individual’s brain (Brodtkorb, 2012). In the last 20 years or so, researchers have come to find that a person’s heredity may influence the cause of seizure activity in some of the observed case of primary generalized seizures (Neligan et. al., 2012). Continued research has yield some promising results regarding this group of seizures.

Partial seizures have been found to begin with electrical discharges in one limited area of the brain (Brodtkorb, 2012). It has been learned that a wide variety of events/things can result in partial seizure activity such as: an injury to the head; brain infection; strokes; tumors; changes or disruptions in the manner in the way an area of a person’s brain formed before her/his birth (Shorvon, 2011).

The Epilepsy Therapy Project (also called “The Project”) has and continues to provide useful, comprehensive information to parents/caregivers with regards to the aid of victims of epilepsy and their ability to care for them when a seizure occurs or is about to occur. The key the project suggests is learning about the person’s seizure pattern. For example, a person’s seizure pattern may occur at a certain time such as when a person experiences stress, has a fever perhaps during an allergic episode. There are commonly referred to events called “triggers” for that particular individual that sign they are about to have a seizure. It is important this information is recorded a relayed to those who care for her/him.

The most common triggers “The Project” found are the following: 1) an interruption of blood supply to the brain; 2) high fever; 3) sleep deprivation; 4) lack of oxygen; 5) trauma; 6) infections of the brain; 7) poisoning of some sort.

First Aid is one of the most important strategies for assisting persons having a seizure. What a loved or any person who has seizures need is care, comfort and a safe environment when they occur. Generally, seizures are not medical emergencies, but handling the situation in a knowledgeable manner is extremely important. The Epilepsy Foundation of America (2014) recommends these procedures:

• Keep calm. Reassure the child/person who is having a seizure and anyone who is a witness that everything will be fine.

• Ease the individual to the floor/ground and clear the area around her/him of anything that could hurt her/him.

• Put something flat and soft (like a pillow, folded coat or blanket) under their head so that it will not bang on the floor as their body jerks.

• A seizure cannot be stopped. Allow it to run its course. Do not interfere with the person’s movements.

• Gently turn the person onto their side. This keeps the airway clear and allows any foreign matter in their mouth to drain away

• Do not try to force a person’s mouth open.

• Do not try to hold onto their tongue (they cannot shallow their tongue as some seem to think).

• Do not put anything in their mouth.

• When the jerking movement stops, let the individual rest until he/she regain consciousness.

• Pay attention to how long the seizure lasts. If the time is more than 5 minutes call for emergency help. If you do not know how long their usual seizure lasts, it is not a bad idea to call for emergency help.

• A person’s breathing may be shallow when the seizure is occurring or they may stop breathing altogether. In the unlikely event that breathing does not begin again, check the person’s airway and give artificial respiration. Call for emergency help.

Most individuals quickly recover after a seizure. Some need little more time.

The individual will need emergency help if:

1. A Seizure last 5 minutes or more (already discussed above).

2. Seizures occur one after the other.

3. A person asks for it.

4. An injury occurs.

5. The seizure occurs in the water.

6. The individual has difficulty breathing or is choking.

Source: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2012). Adapted by the Author


Brodtkorb, E (2013). "Common imitators of epilepsy.". Acta neurologica Scandinavica. Supplementum (196).

Epilepsy Foundation of America. (2014). Treatment and Care. Adapted by the Author.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2012). The Epilepsies: The diagnosis and management of the epilepsies in adults and children in primary and secondary care. National Clinical Guideline Centre.

Neligan, A; Hauser, WA; Sander, JW (2012). "The epidemiology of the epilepsies.". Handbook of clinical neurology 107: 113–33.

Shorvon, S.D. (2011). The Causes of Epilepsy: Common and Uncommon Causes in Adults and Children. Cambridge University Press.

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