10-02-2014 | Survey results - responding to a seizure

10 February 2014
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Seizure First-aid Survey
Conducted by Amarach Research for Epilepsy Ireland
January 2014

Last month (January 2014), Epilepsy Ireland placed a number of questions on the Amárach Research monthly omnibus survey. A total sample of 1,003 was achieved with quotas set on gender, age, social class and region to achieve a sample aligned with national population. The research was conducted from January 14th – 21st.

This research found that significant misunderstanding exists regarding the correct actions to take when responding to a seizure.

We first asked if the respondent knew someone who has epilepsy. 37% said that they did know someone. Women and people in the 15-24 years age group were significantly more likely to know someone with epilepsy.

We then asked everyone if they had ever undertaken any kind of first aid training. 50% of respondents said that they had. We found that those who said they knew someone with epilepsy were significantly more likely to have undertaken training than those who did not know someone.

We then asked each person the open-ended and unprompted "What is the first thing you would do if you saw someone having a seizure?" After grouping all responses into broader categories, the study found as follows:

  • Call an ambulance: 30%
  • Put person on their side/ recovery position: 28%
  • Remove harmful objects: 20%
  • Put something in the person's mouth: 17%
  • Make them comfortable/ offer reassurance: 11%
  • Put something udner their head: 10%
  • Don't know: 10%
  • Other answers:12%

In reality, an ambulance is needed only in specific circumstances while the person should ONLY be moved onto their side once the seizure (tonic-clonic) has passed, not as a first step. Putting something into the person's mouth is something that should never be done. Removing harmful objects from the area, protecting the head and offering reassurance are all recommended actions when tending to a person having a convulsive seizure.

Some trends from this question include:

  • Younger people are more likely to call an ambulance for a seizure. However they were also far less likely to put something in the person's mouth and more likely to protect the head.
  • Respondents over 55 years old were less likely to call for an ambulance and more likely to insert something into the mouth but more likely to offer reassurance.
  • Respondents who knew someone with epilepsy and those with first aid training were generally more aware of the correct actions to take.

The final question asked which of the following (prompted) actions would you take if you saw someone having a seizure:

  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends: 71%
  • Call an ambulance: 70%
  • Remove potentially harmful objects: 65%
  • Put something under the person's head 58%
  • Put something in the person's mouth: 32%
  • Look for epilepsy ID: 31%
  • Restrain the person's movements: 12%

The results show again that while a majority of people know to stay with the person, remove dangerous objects from the area and to protect the head, there is misunderstanding about the need for an ambulance and about putting something into the mouth, while few people would think of looking for epilepsy ID.

Older age groups were more likely to remain with the person until the seizure ends and were less likely to call an ambulance. However they were also far more likely to put something into the person's mouth.

Again, on all questions, those who know someone with epilepsy and those who had first aid training scored better.

To find out more about seizure first-aid, see http://www.epilepsy.ie/go/seizureaware

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