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Seizure Types


           Generalized Tonic Clonic also known as Grand Mal
           Absence also known as petit mal
           Complex Partial also known as psychomotor or temporal lobe
           Atonic Seizures also known as drop attacks
           Myoclonic Seizures
           Infantile Spasms

also known as Grand Mal

What It Looks Like:
Sudden cry, fall, rigidity, followed by muscle jerks, shallow breathing or temporarily suspended breathing, bluish skin, possible loss of bladder control. Usually lasts a couple of minutes.Normal breathing then starts again. There may be some confusion and/or fatigue. Followed by return to full consciousness.

What It Is Not:

          Heart attack

What To Do:

          Look for medical identification
          Protect from nearby hazards
          Loosen tie or shirt collars and take off glasses
          Place folded jacket or a pillow under head
          Turn on side to keep airway clear
          Reassure when consciousness returns
          If single seizure lasted less than 5 minutes ask if hospital evaluation is wanted
          If multiple seizures or if one seizure lasts 5 minutes or more, call an ambulance
          If person is pregnant, injured, or diabetic, call for aid at once

What Not To Do:

          Don't put anything in mouth
          Don't try to hold tongue; it can't be swallowed
          Don't try to give liquids during or just after seizure
          Don't use artificial respiration unless breathing is absent after muscle jerks subside or unless water has been 
          Don't restrain

ABSENCE also known as petit mal

What It Looks Like
A blank stare, lasting only a few seconds, most common in children. May be accompanied by rapid blinking, some facial twitch. A child having the seizures is unaware of what's going on during the seizure, but quickly returns to full awareness once it has stopped. May result in learning difficulties if not recognized and treated  

What It Is Not

          Lack of attention
          Deliberate ignoring of adult instructions

What To Do

           No first aid is necessary, but how often these brief episodes happen, and how long they last should be                    tracked and reported to your physician.
           If he or she is holding something hot or sharp when the seizure begins, gently remove it to avoid injury.
           After the seizure, gently explore the older person's sense of what just happened and whether it                        has happened before.

COMPLEX PARTIAL also called psychomotor or temporal lobe

What It Looks Like
Usually starts with blank stare, followed by chewing, followed by random activity. Persons appear unaware of surroundings, may seem dazed and mumble. Unresponsive. Actions clumsy, not directed. May pick at clothing, pick up objects, random "motor activity".  May run, or appear afraid. May struggle or flail at restraint. Once pattern established, same set of actions usually occur with each seizure. Lasts a few minutes, but post-seizure confusion can last substantially longer. No memory of what happened during seizure period.

What It Is Not

          Intoxication on drugs
          Mental illness
          Disorderly conduct

What To Do

          Speak calmly and reassuringly to patient and others
          Guide gently away from obvious hazards
          Stay with person until completely aware of environment
          Offer to help getting home

What Not To Do

          Don't grab hold unless sudden danger (such as a cliff edge or an approaching car) threatens.
          Don't try to restrain.
          Don't shout.
          Don't expect verbal instructions to be obeyed.

ATONIC SEIZURES also called drop attacks

What It Looks Like
A child or adult suddenly collapses and falls. After 10 seconds to 1 minute he/she recovers, regains consciousness, and can stand and walk again.

What It Is Not

          Normal childhood "stage"
          Child: Lack of good walking skills
          Adult: Acute illness, drunkenness.

What To Do

          No first aid needed (unless injured during fall), but the child should be given a thorough medical evaluation.


What It Looks Like
Sudden brief, massive muscle jerks that may involve the whole body or parts of the body. May cause a person to spill what they were holding or fall off a chair.

What It Is Not

          Poor coordination

What To Do

          No first aid needed, but should be given a thorough medical evaluation.


What It Looks Like
These are quick, sudden movements that start between 3 months and 2 years. If a child is sitting up, the head will fall forward, and the arms will flex forward. If lying down, the knees will be drawn up, with arms and head flexed forward as if the baby is reaching for support.

What It Is Not

          Normal movements of the baby

What To Do

          No first aid, but prompt medical evaluation is needed.


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