Educate Yourself and Spread Awareness During Epilepsy Awareness Month
Epilepsy is a disease that more than 3 million Americans live with. It is estimated that an additional 200,000 new cases develop each year. I hope that everyone takes a few minutes this November to learn more about epilepsy, help dispel myths, and learn what to do should you encounter someone who is having a seizure.
It surprises me that many people still don’t understand what epilepsy is. The Epilepsy Foundation defines this disease as “a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. Itâ€™s also called a seizure disorder.”
Now you may be saying “what defines a seizure?” Here are some brief details on what a seizure is and looks like (details courtesy of The Epilepsy Foundation):
- A seizure happens when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain.
- Seizures can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
- While people traditionally think of a person convulsing during a seizure, it all depends on the person experiencing the seizure.Â They can also be displayed by any of the following: blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of arms and legs.
What should you do if you encounter someone with a seizure?
- Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
- Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
- Time the seizure with your watch.
- Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
- Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
- Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
- Turn him or her gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
- Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. A person having a seizure CANNOT swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure teeth or jaw.
- Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
- Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
- Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home by himself.
Why should you know this? There’s often little forewarning that a seizure is going to happen.Â Whether you’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy or not, 1 in 10 adults are estimated to have a seizure sometime during their life, so knowing what to do if someone is having a seizure is important.
This is a cause very close to me.Â I have an uncle with a seizure disorder as well as a child who has an undiagnosed episodic condition that’s aftermath is very close to that of a person who has had a seizure.Â And how did I learn what to look for?Â I have a very dear friend who is epileptic, and because of her, I became aware of what to look for.
I’ve read many things about there being a stigma in the past about people with epilepsy.Â That’s never been my experience.Â My friend, Tricia, is a perfect example of a person with a condition that’s just a part of her life, but it doesn’t rule her life.Â It’s something she’s always aware of and treats, but it doesn’t define who she is.
So this month, I’m wearing purple for Tricia, my Uncle Jim, and my little guy in hope that everyone learns more about epilepsy and seizure first aid.
For more information about epilepsy, please visit the Epilepsy Foundation website.
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