Have you ever witnessed a seizure, more commonly known as a convulsion? It causes trepidation to everyone around especially those without any knowledge of it. But guess what? Contrary to public opinion, seizures do not constitute an emergency.

Limb jerking, eye rolling, lip-smacking,  tongue biting and loss of consciousness are symptoms more commonly associated with seizures. At least that is the general consensus but the fact is that these symptoms are traits of just one type of seizure! A seizure could be as subtle as blinking, staring into space or twitching of muscle groups in any part of the body. It could also involve just one limb instead of a thrashing of the whole body.

I chose to write about seizures because of the atrocities I have seen people commit in the name of trying to abort one. I have seen people beat young children or young adults with their fists, slippers, broomsticks, bamboo sticks, ‘koboko’ and even cable wires. I’ve also seen people attempt to force the mouths of convulsing victims open with all sorts of instruments, the most common being a spoon. There have even been cases of people setting fire to the legs of convulsing children or dousing them continuously with water and/or oil. My aim is not to paint a gruesome picture but to bring to light the harmful practices associated with trying to cure this health condition. Yes, because that is exactly what it is! A health condition! In some cases, it is merely a symptom of another disease and not the disease itself. 

Seizures are generally self-limiting. Here are some of the simple steps to take if anyone around you is having a seizure:

  • Clear the area of any sharp object.
  • Put some cushioning if available.
  • Do not try to restrain them or attempt to stop the movements in any manner. It will end up causing more injuries to them.
  • Lay the patient on their side (recovery position). This will help keep the airway patent. On no account should any object be forced into the mouth of someone having a seizure.
  • Most tend to be over in less than two minutes. Once the seizure is over, the person should be taken to the nearest hospital for further evaluation and treatment if required.
  • Any seizure lasting more than 5 minutes is a status epilepticus. This is a true medical emergency and must be handled in a hospital.

I hope this few tips of mine have helped to demystify seizures and will help you be a little more confident of the steps to take when next you encounter a person having a seizure. Who knows, you just may save a life!

***Michael Imeh, a DHI volunteer writes in from Lagos, Nigeria

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