Have you ever caught yourself in a panic while trying to figure out what you should do to help a loved one who’s experiencing a seizure? Generalized tonic-clonic seizures are most commonly associated with epilepsy and seizures in general, often characterized by temporary convulsions or violent shaking and disordered thinking/confusion.
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It can be the most nerve-wracking thing if you aren’t familiar with seizures. Not only that, everyone seems to have a different understanding of what should be done. Should you put a spoon in their mouth to keep them from swallowing their tongue? Should you hold them down until they stop shaking?
The answer is no. But, here’s what you should do:
Let the seizure play out on its own. According to the Epilepsy Foundaton, generalized tonic-clonic seizures last less than five minutes. If it lasts longer than five minutes, call 911.
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Remove anything that may harm the person who is having a seizure. If there’s furniture or sharp objects nearby, move them out of the way. Do the same for bystanders. Seizures tend to draw a bit of attention. So, if people began to form a circle around the person who’s having a seizure, ask them to move.
What NOT to do
Do not put anything in their mouth, as this may cause more harm than good according to the Epilepsy Foundation. A common myth is that a person who’s having a seizure will swallow their tongue. They won’t. But, they may have trouble breathing.
A common misconception about a person who’s having a generalized tonic-clonic seizure is that they’re not breathing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this is not always true. Even if their face begins to look a little “blue,” it’s likely that they are still breathing. But, this is a sign that their blood is leaving their mouth, lungs and heart and going to their brain.
What To Do
According to the CDC, the best thing to do is turn them over on their side to keep them from choking on saliva or vomit.
- If they’re having trouble with breathing, this position will also help them to breath a little easier.
- Find something soft, like a pillow or a folded jacket, to put underneath their head.
- If they are wearing eyeglasses or a tie, remove (or loosen) it.
- Stay with them until the seizure ends. It may take some time for them to