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Seizures can be very scary to witness, especially if you are seeing a seizure for the first time.
Whereas it is important to act to make sure the person seizing is in a safe place, it may surprise you to learn that not all seizures are emergencies. This month we’ll cover a few situations in which a seizure is less serious, and several others in which you should seek immediate medical attention.
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Do not leave a child alone if he or she is having a seizure.
2. If you are unsure if you are truly witnessing a seizure, you can try touching the child’s arm or calling out their name. If they do not respond, or if they are so tense that you cannot easily straighten their arm, then he or she is likely is experiencing a seizure.
3. Place the child on the ground, flat, in a safe place, and on their side to prevent choking or aspiration in case they vomit during the seizure.
4. Do not put any object or your hand inside the person’s mouth. The jaw tightens during a seizure and this could cause more harm to you or the child. It is common for a person to bite his own tongue during a seizure, and this can be addressed after the seizure is over.
5. Pay attention to the time. Most seizures last less than five minutes.
You should call 911 if any of the following are true:
• If this is the child’s first seizure.
• If the seizure lasted, or is lasting, more than five minutes.
• If the child is having recurring seizures and not returning back to their normal baseline in between the seizures.
• If your child has trouble breathing during or after the seizure.
• If a seizure occurred in the water or if your child was injured during the seizure.
• If your child has a known medical condition such as diabetes or is taking medications for which a seizure could indicate a new underlying serious problem.
It is always a good idea to contact your child’s doctor after a seizure. In the case of first-time seizures, you should see a doctor as quickly as possible. Also, be aware that not every seizure looks the same. The body tenses up and eyes roll back during most seizures, but some can look like a single arm shaking– or a child is just “staring off into space” for a few seconds. So if your child has been experiencing new, odd movements, you should contact your pediatrician to discuss it further.
Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their son, Finn, and their three dogs, Barkley, Fitz, and Roo.