Get ‘Seizure Smart’ for National Epilepsy Awareness Month

People pose for picture

Members of the UC Epilepsy Center team, from left: David Ficker, MD, Jennifer Cavitt, MD, Michael Privitera, MD, Sheetal Malik, MD, and Jerzy Szaflarski, MD, PhD. Photo by Mark Bowen.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and the Epilepsy Foundation’s goal this year is to educate a million Americans about a condition that affects 1 to 2 percent of the population – including more than 20,000 in the Greater Cincinnati region. The Foundation, which has posted an excellent one-minute video on its home page, wants you to become “seizure smart.”

Being seizure smart means knowing what to do if you witness someone having a seizure.

A seizure is an electrical disturbance in the brain that can cause confusion, staring, muscle jerking or loss of memory. A person who suffers more than one seizure is said to have epilepsy.

“Because seizures are highly unpredictable and can happen at any time, they are potentially dangerous,” says David Ficker, MD, Associate Director of the Epilepsy Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. “It is extremely important for family and friends to know exactly what to do during a seizure to minimize the risk of injury.”

If you witness someone having a seizure:

  • Stay calm
  • Protect the person having the seizure
  • Cushion the head
  • Do not place anything in the person’s mouth; it is a myth that a person who is suffering a seizure can swallow his tongue
  • Loosen tight neckwear
  • Move any objects or furniture that might cause the person harm
  • Turn the person on her side
  • Do not restrain the person
  • Talk to the person in a reassuring voice

You should call 911 if:

  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • Seizures occur in clusters over a short period of time
  • Injury occurs or is suspected
  • The seizure occurs in water
  • The person appears to be choking or having difficulty breathing
  • The person is pregnant or has other medical issues
  • The person doesn’t recover well after a seizure or gets sick a few hours or days after the seizure

To learn more about epilepsy, please visit the UC Epilepsy Center, an advanced Level 4 center that provides comprehensive diagnostics and treatment, features a 24-hour Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, and seeks to eliminate seizures through innovative research.

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