Around 70 000 people in Switzerland are affected by epilepsy. The causes can be many and various, not least because we are not really talking about one illness. Not everyone who has an epileptic seizure necessarily suffers from epilepsy. The term "epilepsy" is generally only used when an individual has two or more seizures occurring spontaneously within a 24-hour period without apparent cause.
An epileptic seizure is a temporary dysfunction of the brain, but the symptoms can be extremely various. Potential signs are: sudden collapse, increased salivation and rapid breathing, short-term respiratory arrest with the lips turning blue, muscular rigidity or convulsions of the whole body. Seizures generally last for one or two minutes, rarely longer, but can also last just a few seconds.
Many first responders are shocked when they first experience an individual having an epileptic seizure. To help the affected person, you should:
- If possible, prevent the person from falling heavily and lay them gently on the ground.
- Protect the person against potential secondary injuries, but not by restraining them. Restraint during and especially after the seizure increases the risk of injury.
- Remove anything which is in the way.
- Put something soft under the person's head, remove their glasses and loosen clothing in the neck area which may be too tight.
- Do not push anything between the person's teeth in an attempt to prevent them from biting their tongue; you may damage their air passages.
- Use the BLS*-AED** procedure if the individual is unconscious after the seizure. Do not provide artificial respiration or turn the person on their side during the seizure.
Keep calm and note how long the seizure lasts for. No medical attention will be required in most cases unless:
- the convulsions last for more than three minutes
- the person has suffered a severe injury, remains unconscious or is not breathing properly
- there are more convulsions
Many people are confused and sleepy after a seizure. Keep calm and tell the person what has happened. Let them know how long it lasted for and what the symptoms were.
If you have any further questions about epilepsy, the doctors and other medical personnel at sante24 can provide you with expert advice – free of charge, 24 hours a day. On request, sante24 will also arrange a doctor's appointment.
Phone +41 (0)44 404 86 86
*Basic Life Support (first aid)
**Automated External Defibrillator