Being a young man that was born and raised in Africa, the sight of indigenous Africans trying to render treatment to people suffering from convulsions or seizures, most especially infants, is not uncommon to me. However, these indigenous treatments tend to be superstitious and devised out of ignorance instead of proven science and modern medicine.
I have witnessed a couple of events in which people do a lot of baseless and irrational things in the name of treatment to people momentarily experiencing seizures or convulsions.
For instance, I have seen some women forcing metallic spoons and onions into the mouth of a person having a fit.
Again, I have seen some men trying to beat a convulsing lad back to normalcy.
Also, I have witnessed some people thoroughly applying charcoal on the skin of a child suffering from a seizure.
If you ever have an opportunity to be greeted by some knowledge from modern medicine, then you will discover that these practices are in effective and very dangerous to a person suffering from a case of seizure or convulsion.
Consequently , I am writing this article with the important objective of enlightening the readers on the proper way a first aid treatment ahould be administered to persons suffering from convulsions and seizures.
DEFINITION OF SEIZURE/CONVULSION:
The Mayo Clinic defines seizure as a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain.
On the other hand, Convulsion is defined as an intense, paroxysmal, involuntary muscular contraction.
Furthermore, in medicine, the word “paroxysm” has to do with a sudden outburst or recurrence of a disease.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SEIZURE AND CONVULSION:
In the human body, electrical activities in the brain and spinal cord are responsible for the contraction of muscles.
Therefore, an uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain (seizure) will result in involuntary muscular contractions (convulsions).
Accordingly, seizure and convulsion occur hand in hand.
An alternative word for “seizure” and “convulsion” is “fit“.
Having two or more seizures at least 24 hours apart without an identifiable cause is generally considered to be epilepsy.
DURATION OF A SEIZURE OR CONVULSION:
Most seizures last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Seizures that last longer than 5 minutes are considered to be “medical emergencies“.
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION OF SEIZURES:
Seizures, which happen to be a common phenomena, can be generally divided into three classes based on the location of the brain and how the abnormal brain activity begins.
These classes are:
1. Focal Seizure:
This class of seizures results from abnormal electrical activity in one area of the brain. It can occur with or without the loss of consciousness.
2. Generalized seizure:
This class of seizure appears to involve all areas of the brain.
3. Unknown onset seizure:
This is a class of seizures in which how the abnormal electrical activity began is not known.
CAUSES OF SEIZURE/CONVULSION:
The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy.
Other causes include:
1. High fever, which could be associated with other diseases, such as meningitis and malaria.
3. Brain tumour.
4. Insomnia (Lack of sleep).
5. Low blood sodium (Hyponatremia).
6. Head trauma that can cause an area of bleeding in the brain.
7. Visual stimulants, such as flashing lights and moving patterns.
8. Abnormalities of the blood vessels in the brain.
9. Alcohol misuse and use of illegal or recreational drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine.
10. Autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis.
11. COVID-19 virus infection.
Depending on the type of seizure, the signs and symptoms could be either mild or severe.
Some symptoms of seizure include:
1. Temporary confusion.
2. A staring spell.
3. Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs.
4. Loss of consciousness or awareness.
5. Cognitive or emotional symptoms, such as fear, anxiety, or deja vu.
COMPLICATIONS THAT CAN ARISE FROM A SEIZURE:
When someone is having a fit, the person is prone to incurring a lot of dangers due to two main factors.
Firstly, concentration and awareness are inexistent or minimum during seizures.
In addition to that, sudden uncontrollable muscular movements of the body (spasms) occur during convulsions.
As a result of these factors, complications take place.
Some of the possible complications are:
Falling during a seizure can result in head injuries and bone fractures.
2. Car accidents:
A seizure that occurs when someone is driving or attempting to cross the road can lead to car accidents.
A seizure that occurs when a person is bathing or swimming could lead to drowning if there is no one around to help the convulsing person.
4. Pregnancy complications:
Experiencing a fit while pregnant is dangerous and can even be fatal.
5. Emotional complications:
People with seizures tend to exhibit psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety.
FIRST AID TREATMENT FOR SOMEONE HAVING A SEIZURE/CONVULSION:
PURPOSE OF FIRST AID TREATMENT:
The first aid treatment for someone with a seizure is aimed at providing safety for the person until the seizure leaves on its own.
Recall that the duration of most seizures is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.
The steps to follow when administering first aid treatment to a person suffering from a seizure or convulsion are:
1. Stay calm and urge bystanders to give the convulsing person some space.
Overcrowding a convulsing person increases the amount of heat emitted to the surrounding, and an increase in the temperature of the surrounding is not good for a convulsing person.
2. Loosen anything around the person’s neck that could restrict breathing, such as ties, jewelry, scarf, or upper buttons of clothing.
3. Do NOT restrain the person, as this could result in injury.
4. Do NOT put anything in the person’s mouth, and do NOT try to hold the tongue or force the mouth open.
MEDICAL REASONS FOR THIS INSTRUCTION:
I. In human beings, both the alimentary (digestive) tract and respiratory tract pass through a common passageway known as the pharynx.
Whenever we eat, an organ known as the epiglottis covers an opening in the respiratory tract known as the glottis, to prevent food from entering our respiratory tracts.
Nevertheless, during a seizure, the epiglottis leaves the glottis open because a convulsing person is in urgent need of air. Hence, anything introduced into the mouth when a person is having a seizure can pass the pharynx and proceed straight into the respiratory tract via the open glottis.
The presence of a foreign object, such as onion, in the respiratory tract, can lead to the obstruction of the respiratory tract which could eventually lead to death or the emergence of infections.
II. Holding the tongue or forcing a spoon in between the upper and lower rows of teeth of a convulsing person can lead to extreme injuries, bleeding, and fracture of teeth and jaw.
Direct contact of the two rows of teeth of a convulsing person will not result in death, neither can a convulsing patient possibly swallow his/her tongue.
So, please avoid the false claims and misconceptions you probably learned before.
5. Clear the area around the person having a fit and remove any object that could cause injury, such as glassware, stones, furniture e.t.c.
6. Put something flat and soft under person’s head.
7. After the seizure, lay the person on their side to facilitate optimal breathing and keep the airways open.
8. Do NOT leave the person alone after a seizure. They could be disoriented or confused. Reassure them that all is fine with a beaming smile on your face when they finally become conscious.
9. If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes, quickly call for professional help.
10. It is not wrong to take the person for a medical checkup even after a successful first aid treatment.
Note that; I am not against the practice of traditional medicine. Rather I am attempting to educate you on the dangers of harmful indigenous approach to a case of seizure or convulsion, and lead you to the right and proper way of how to treat a person having a fit.
I hope you have been able to learn something new today. Have you?
- 1. Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seizure/symptoms-causes/syc-20365711
3. MedicineNet: https://www.medicinenet.com/first_aid_for_seizures/article.htm