Seizures (fits) in adults

A seizure can be caused by something interrupting the electrical activity in the brain. This leads the muscles in the body to contract uncontrollably and usually causes the person to lose consciousness. It’s also known as a convulsion or fit.

In adults, seizures are the most common symptom of epilepsy, but they can be caused by other things, such as a head injury, alcohol poisoning or someone with diabetes having a 'hypo' when their blood glucose is too low.

Epilepsy is a condition which affects the brain and causes repeated seizures, which are often sudden and dramatic.

What to look for

With any kind of seizure it is really important to keep checking:

• their level of response and pulse

• and that the person is breathing.

It is also important to protect them from harming themselves during the fit

If you think someone is having a seizure, there are six key things to look for:

  1. Sudden loss of consciousness
  2. Rigid body with an arching back
  3. Noisy difficult breathing
  4. Convulsions (jerky uncontrolled movements)
  5. Loss of bladder and bowel control
  6. Afterwards they may be confused, tired and fall into a deep sleep

What you need to do

Don’t restrain or move them.

Protect them from hurting themselves. Clear away any potentially dangerous objects, like hot drinks or sharp objects.

Make a note of the time when the seizure started and how long it lasts.

Protect their head by placing something soft underneath it, like a towel, and loosen any clothing around their neck.

Once the seizure has stopped, they may fall into a deep sleep – if they do, open their airway and check their breathing.

If they’re breathing, put them in the recovery position.

If they stop breathing at any point, prepare to treat someone who is unconscious and not breathing.

Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.

Call 999 or 112 for medical help if:

•it’s the casualty's first seizure, or the cause is unknown

•they’re having repeated seizures

•the seizure lasts more than five minutes

•they’re unconscious for more than ten minutes.

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