Brain and Spine Care
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Stay calm. Give them space. And time the episode.
This is the advice Dr. Mark Hoeprich, neurosurgeon, gives if you see someone having a seizure.
Seizures are scary, and watching someone have one can be just as frightening. But having the answers to the following questions can help you confidently care for someone having a seizure.
Do you call 911?
You do not need to call 911 in most cases. Instead of calling 911, get your phone out (or use your watch) to time the length of the seizure.
“Most seizures will stop within a minute or so,” said Dr. Hoeprich.
But if the seizure lasts for five minutes or more, call 911.
Or if they come out of a shorter seizure and go back into a second seizure, call 911.
Because watching someone have a seizure can be incredibly stressful, it’s best not to assume you can accurately keep track of time. Using your phone or watch will help you monitor the time as you make sure that person is safe.
Should you try to stop a seizure?
“Don’t try to stop it,” said Dr. Hoeprich. “They will be okay.”
Instead of trying to stop the seizure, follow these steps to help protect the person having one:
- Ease them onto the ground so they don’t fall.
- Clear the area around them, making sure nothing is close that could injure them.
- Loosen any restrictive clothing, like a necktie.
- Roll them onto their side, in case they vomit.
- Roll up a jacket and put it under their head so they don’t hit their head on the ground.
- Stay with them until the seizure ends and they wake up.
The one thing you want to avoid doing to someone having a seizure is restraining them.
“You don’t want to hold them down. You don’t want to hold them still and restrict their movements,” said Dr. Hoeprich.
Once you’ve helped the person having a seizure stay safe, try to keep anyone who’s gathered calm, too. Encourage them not to call 911 as you monitor the person.
“Everyone tends to cluster around and stare,” said Dr. Hoeprich. “Tell people to give them space and that it’ll last a minute or so. Keep everybody calm. And you can hopefully avoid everyone calling 911 at the same time.”
What happens after a seizure?
Sometimes someone wakes up after a seizure and doesn’t know or remember that they had one. Chances are, though, the person will feel tired and disoriented. They might have difficulty talking as well.
Stay with them and wait until they’re awake before moving on with your day. Once they’re alert, calmly talk to them, letting them know what happened and that they’re going to be fine.
“Assure them, ‘Hey, you’re fine. You had a seizure. It will be okay.’”