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First Aid: Grand Mal Seizures

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-02-19 (Rev. 2010-07-03) - First aid treatment for a grand mal seizure including things to do while waiting for qualified medical assistance. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Michael A. Morales.
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A grand mal seizure is a common type of seizure that involves every part of the brain.

A grand mal seizure is a medical emergency that consists of two phases.

During the first, or tonic phase, the muscles in the body stiffen and the hands and feet either turn into the body completely or else turn entirely outward, which causes the victim to fall down if he or she was standing when the incident began. The victim becomes unconscious and may make various sounds.

The second phase, which is the clonic phase, lasts a little longer and consists of the symptoms most people think of when they envision a seizure- convulsions, shaking, eyes rolling back, biting the tongue, and a general loss of control over bodily functions.

A seizure generally lasts only a few minutes, which is usually not enough time for emergency medical assistance to arrive. Following the seizure, the victim may remain unconscious for a short period of time and will normally wake up with no recollection of what happened. This is why it is important for bystanders to take note of what transpired during the seizure.

There isn't much you can do for seizures in terms of first aid but remembering what happened could be a lifesaver in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Details of the seizure are very important and it is something the patient himself will never be able to remember so witnesses should try to remain calm and take note of what happened during the emergency.

A grand mal seizure can be quite frightening to witness but simply having someone present is the best first aid in this case. There is nothing you can do to stop a seizure but you can prevent it from becoming a more serious emergency.

First, lay the person onto his side if possible so that if he vomits, he will not swallow his vomit and choke on it.

Place something soft under his head so he does not bang it too hard against the ground. Keeping in mind that people move around a lot during a seizure, move dangerous objects out of the area so the victim does not bump into anything.

Do not try to restrain the person or place anything into their mouth.

Following the seizure, bring the victim to the emergency room for a follow-up exam, If this is the victims first seizure, the medical history is unknown, or the seizure last longer than 5 minutes, it is more appropriate to call 911 or the local emergency number and have EMS providers assess the victim and the circumstances.

If someone you know has epilepsy or a history of seizures, it is particularly important to supervise him when swimming as a grand mal seizure that takes place in the water can result in death by drowning. Otherwise, people don't normally die from this type of seizure. The best thing you can do is help the victim prevent further damage and bring him for emergency treatment after the seizure, or call EMS if the appropriate.

Reference: Michael Morales is an EMT-Paramedic and program director for Vital Ethics, providing basic and advanced life support training and certification programs to health care professionals

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, emergency treatment or formal first-aid training. Do NOT use this information to diagnose or develop a treatment plan for a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider. If you're in a life-threatening or emergency medical situation, seek medical assistance immediately.

Information from our First Aid: Emergency Medical Treatments section - (Full List).

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