November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month (NEAM). According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring, unprovoked seizures. Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy and are caused by an interruption in normal brain signals. Often the cause is completely unknown, and not all seizures are the result of epilepsy.
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disease as it affects approximately 3.4 million people in the U.S. It is estimated that 1 out of 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy during their life.
It's important to raise awareness of this condition to alleviate seizures and their impact, as well as improve quality of life. Learning about epilepsy can prevent sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.
This year, we raise awareness by remembering there is no NEAM without ME. There are many things you can do to help people with epilepsy.
Know the signs
Rapid eye blinking
Jerking of the arms and legs
Unconsciousness or rhythmic nodding of the head
Blue-tinted lips and difficulty breathing
Post-seizure, a person may be confused or tired
If you suspect someone is having a seizure, you can help them by following these dos and don'ts
Stay calm - talk to them with a reassuring voice after the seizure is over and help others around you remain calm as well
Help the person lie down on their side on a flat, comfortable surface
Try to cushion their head and position their mouth downwards to prevent choking on saliva
Loosen any tight clothing around the neck and remove any eyeglasses or backpacks that the person may be wearing
Move sharp or hard objects away from the person
Check for a medical bracelet or other emergency information with more instructions
Make sure they are breathing without difficulty - they may appear to stop breathing but it is usually just a chest muscle contraction; when the muscles relax, breathing should return to normal
Offer them a ride home or accompany them to a safe place if they return to a normal state after the seizure passes
Help seek medical care if the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, has repeated seizures, injures themselves, or is struggling to return to a normal state after the seizure passes.
Hold or restrain the person - holding them down can be frightening and they may get aggressive in their confusion
Put anything in the person’s mouth during the seizure (It is a myth that you should put something in their mouth; they cannot swallow their tongue)
Leave the person alone - monitor and stay with them until the seizure passes and they return to an awake and alert state
Give them any food, drinks, or pills until they return to an awake and alert state