10-02-2014 | 1 in 3 people would attempt to insert something into a person’s mouth when responding to a seizure

10 February 2014
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On European Epilepsy Day today, Epilepsy Ireland released results of national consumer research amongst 1000+ people conducted in January 2014. This research found that significant misunderstanding exists regarding the correct actions to take when responding to a seizure.

The research showed that;

  • 32% of people would attempt to put something in the person's mouth during a seizure to prevent them from swallowing their tongue
  • 12% of respondents would try and restrain the person's movements
  • 70% would call an ambulance

The first two actions are completely inappropriate and potentially dangerous. An ambulance is only required in limited circumstances such as for a person's first seizure, if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes or if the person has become injured during the seizure.

Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological condition in Ireland and 1 in 115 people in Ireland or 37,000 people over the age of five years have a diagnosis of epilepsy. It is also estimated that 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives.

The research further showed that;

  • Despite the high prevalence of epilepsy, only 37% of respondents said they knew someone with epilepsy (which may indicate persistent stigma associated with epilepsy and those with the condition not wanting to disclose it if possible)
  • On a positive note 50% of respondents said they had undertaken some form of first aid training and those who had done so displayed significantly improved knowledge of appropriate seizure first-aid
  • Also positively, 71% of respondents know that you should stay with the person until the seizure ends and 65% of respondents know to remove potentially harmful objects from the vicinity.

Speaking in advance of European Epilepsy Day, Ireland rugby head coach Joe Schmidt, whose son has epilepsy and who is fronting Epilepsy Ireland's Seizure Aware campaign said "It is encouraging to see an increasing level of awareness around what to do in the event of witnessing a seizure. However there are still knowledge gaps and probably some fear about epilepsy amongst people generally as indicated in the research findings, which naturally present major challenges for people living with epilepsy."

"That's why I am in full support of the new Epilepsy Ireland campaign and am appealing to all people in Ireland to 'Be Seizure Aware' by remembering the acronym, TEAM, when responding to a seizure;

  • T means Take care to protect the person.
  • E means Ensure you stay with the person
  • A means Allow the seizure run its course
  • M means Move the person on to their side when the seizure is over (if needed)" continued Mr Schmidt

Also speaking about what to do if you witness some having an epileptic seizure, Professor Norman Delanty, Consultant Neurologist and Director of the Epilepsy Programme at Beaumont Hospital said "The majority of seizures are short and self-limiting and in general, you should let the seizure run its course which in most cases will only be from a few seconds to a few minutes. The correct response to tonic-clonic seizures (those involving loss of consciousness, muscle stiffening, the person falling to the ground followed by jerking movements) is to try and protect the person from injury by removing any harmful objects that may be nearby and by cushioning the person's head. You should also gently place the person in the recovery position when the seizure has finished, reassure them and stay with them until recovery is complete which is usually between five and 20 minutes."

"Knowing what not to do is equally important. You should never attempt to restrain the person or put anything into their mouth. An ambulance is generally not required unless it is the person's first seizure, unless it lasts longer than five minutes or unless multiple seizures occur without the person regaining consciousness. In certain situations, individuals may be prescribed an emergency medication called buccal midazolam which should only be administered by a trained family member or carer to shorten or stop the seizure" continued Professor Delanty.

The Epilepsy Ireland website epilepsy.ie contains information and a range of resources including videos and posters on responding to seizures and the organisation is encouraging everyone to mark European Epilepsy Day today by becoming more Seizure Aware.

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