Supporting young people with epilepsy
By Shamindri De Sayrah
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that disrupts the normal electrical activity our brains use to communicate with the rest of the body. This disruption causes seizures.
There are over 40 different types of seizure and every young person’s epilepsy is unique to them. In order to be diagnosed with epilepsy, a young person must have had at least two seizures.
In most cases, epilepsy is well managed and seizures are controlled, but it is a very serious condition and can be life-threatening. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages.
What can trigger a seizure?
Here are some of the seizure triggers that have been reported by people with epilepsy:
- Not taking epilepsy medicine as prescribed
- Feeling tired and not sleeping well
- Exerting yourself physically
- Alcohol and recreational drugs
- Flashing or flickering lights
- Missing meals
- Having an illness which causes a high temperature
What happens during an epileptic seizure?
Seizures can take on different forms, and affect people in distinct ways. While not everyone will experience every stage, seizures do have a beginning, middle, and end point.
According to the Clinical Research Group, Florida, “A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain. This uncontrolled activity may produce a physical convulsion, abnormal behavior, and even loss of consciousness.”
Sometimes seizures can have prior warning signs, like changes in feelings or sensations, or behavior changes. There might also be changes in sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of déjà vu. An aura is considered to be the most common and definite warning of a seizure, but many people have difficulty describing an aura.
During a seizure, different people may experience it differently and react differently. But the more common experiences include losing the ability to swallow, difficulty speaking, experiencing twitching or jerking movements in the body, and even experiencing convulsions. They may lose consciousness, see flashing lights, experience visual hallucinations, and feel out of body sensations.
As the seizure ends, some will recover immediately, while others may take hours to feel like themselves again. They may be tired, embarrassed, weak, or confused.
How can I help someone having a seizure?
Keep other people out of the way – They don’t need an audience
Clear hard or sharp objects away from the person – The person will not be aware of what they are doing and they could hurt themselves or others
Don't try to hold them down or stop movements – Give them room and time, they will calm down eventually.
Immediately place them on their side – To help keep the airway clear and to keep them from choking. Don't put anything in their mouth.
Look at your watch or phone at the start of the seizure – Make sure you time its length.
Most importantly, be there for them once it’s done.