Darla Templeton, CEO of Epilepsy Foundation of Missouri and Kansas, said the 40 different types of epilepsy, or seizure disorder, exhibit various physical displays, so reactions vary when a seizure occurs. However, they all come down to keeping the person safe and judging whether it is a medical emergency requiring assistance.
"The most important thing about any of them is that you shouldn’t put something in a person’s mouth. That was the procedure suggested long ago, but it was found that people broke their teeth and it didn’t work well," she said.
Three situations require calling 911: A seizure lasting more than five minutes, if it immediately reoccurs or when it is the first one.
As a seizure passes, the person experiencing it will be slightly confused, so an onlooker should be reassuring and calm. Once senses clear to provide correct information like name and location, he probably can continue.
While a person with epilepsy certainly can enjoy summer, Templeton said, it is imperative always to swim with a buddy. If someone has a seizure while swimming, onlookers should get him out of the water for seizure control, plus check for possible water ingestion.
Generalized tonic clonis (grand mal)
Symptoms: Loss of consciousness, muscles stiffen and jerk, usually lasts 2 to 3 minutes.
What to know: Ease him to the ground if he already hasn’t fallen.
Protect the head and remove things around him for safety.
Turn him on his side. Loosen a collar, if wearing one.
Complex partial seizure
Symptoms: Impaired awareness, pulls on clothes, lip movement, aimless walking, usually shorter duration.
What to know: Try to keep out of harm’s way, particularly if person is walking.
May be misinterpreted as other ailment like drug abuse or drunkenness.
Holding or steering the person for safety may be misunderstood and push away the aid.
Absence seizure (petit mal)
Symptoms: Eyes roll back, flutter or stare for a few seconds.
What to know: Awareness returns just after a short period of unresponsiveness.