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Seizure First Aid: Remember Stay, Safe and Side

Epilepsy awareness includes knowing how to help

Epilepsy awareness includes knowing how to help
The Epilepsy Center team - neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, neuropsychologists and other professionals.

Encountering someone experiencing an epileptic seizure can be an unsettling experience if you’re not familiar with epilepsy or the various types of seizures that can result.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that produces recurring, unprovoked seizures. It’s one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, affecting about 50 million people. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one in 10 people in the U.S. will have a seizure and one in 26 will develop epilepsy during their lifetime.

Not every seizure is connected to epilepsy, however. Some seizures can be triggered by other causes such as high fevers, head injuries, or other factors.

Epilepsy seizures and treatment

For most people, epilepsy is successfully managed with medication, but there are still an estimated 1 million people in the U.S. with uncontrolled epilepsy. Most seizures end very quickly – within seconds – but some can last minutes. Seizures can take a number of forms, from subtle behavior only a trained eye would notice to those that affect movement and produce twitching or muscle rigidity, among other symptoms.

Did you know?

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, affecting about 50 million people.

Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute is a leader in epilepsy treatment. At the Neuroscience Institute’s Epilepsy Center, an experienced team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, neuropsychologists and other professionals collaborates care and is experienced in managing complicated epilepsy cases to achieve freedom from seizures.

“Our Epilepsy Center features a state-of-the-art Epilepsy Monitoring Unit,” Fleming Neuroscience Institute neurologist Soraya Jimenez, MD, says. “This allows long-term monitoring for in-depth diagnostics, as well as consideration and optimization of treatment options.”

How can you help during a seizure?

How do you help someone having a seizure? The Epilepsy Foundation’s seizure first aid instructions come down to three S’s – Stay, Safe and Side. The foundation advises:

Stay: Stay with the person having the seizure until that person is awake and alert. Remain calm and remember to time the length of the seizure because that will be important information for a doctor. Stay calm and check for any medical identification.

Safe: Keep the person safe and guide them away from any harm in the immediate area. Keep people away. Don’t attempt to restrain a person experiencing a seizure and don’t put anything in their mouth. A person can’t swallow their tongue, so don’t worry about that.

Side: If the person is not awake and aware, turn them onto their side with their mouth pointing at the ground and keep their airway clear. This allows for easier breathing and keeps saliva from blocking their airway. Loosen any tight clothing around their neck and if possible, place something small and soft under their head.

The Epilepsy Foundation says you should call 911 for a seizure patient IF:

  • The seizure lasts more than five minutes.
  • The person doesn’t return to their previous state.
  • The person is injured, pregnant or sick.
  • There are repeated seizures.
  • It is a first-time seizure.
  • The person had difficulty breathing.
  • The seizure occurred in water.

As the person who had the seizure wakes or returns to their prior state, reassure them they’re safe and let them know what happened. Offer to stay with them or call someone who can.

The Epilepsy Foundation offers an on-demand online course on seizure safety. Click here to learn more about the foundation’s educational offerings.

Epileptic seizures are rarely fatal. However, those with convulsive epilepsy can be at risk for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). The Epilepsy Foundation says one in 1,000 people with epilepsy dies each year from SUDEP. The best way for a person with epilepsy to lower their SUDEP risk is to work with an epilepsy specialist, take prescribed medication, and engage in good seizure management practices such as avoiding things that may trigger seizures.


Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute’s Epilepsy Center

We have advanced technology to accurately diagnose epilepsy at our state-of-the-art Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU), the only one of its kind in the Lehigh Valley.

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