First Aid for Fits

Witnessing a fit can be a frightening experience, especially if you’ve never seen one before.  There are different types of fits but the one we tend to think about is the ‘tonic-clonic’ type where the person collapses to the floor and shakes or jerks uncontrollably.  Below are my tips for first aid for fits.

What should you do when someone has a fit?

  • Make sure you are safe, the same as in any first aid situation
  • Move objects away from them if possible if they are likely to injure themselves
  • Cushion their head, with a folded blanket or clothing
  • Check the time so that the fit can be timed, if the fit lasts for longer than 5 minutes or they have one fit after another without regaining consciousness then call an ambulance
  • Once the seizure has finished check they are breathing normally and if they are place them into the recovery position
  • Stay with them until help arrives

Things to avoid

  • Don’t put objects such as spoons or fingers in the mouth
  • Don’t try to restrain them
  • Don’t try to move them unless they are in danger
  • Don’t try to wake them

Different types of fit

People have fits for different reasons and in different ways.  Some people have fits during which they appear to remain conscious.  However they are not aware of their surroundings or of what is happening.  In this case safety is important and you may need to lead them somewhere safe.  Again don’t try to wake them and if you’re concerned then phone 999 or 112.

Do you need an ambulance?

Not everybody who has a fit needs to go to hospital.  There are some general guidelines on when to call an ambulance and these are:-

  • If the fit lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • If they have one fit after another without regaining consciousness
  • If this is their first fit
  • They’ve been injured
  • You think they need urgent medical assistance

I think the decision of when to call for help is a difficult one.  I always advise people to call for help when you think you need it but certainly if you meet any of the above criteria.  However, if they are a stranger then it may not be possible for you to know if it is their first fit or to be sure that it isn’t their first fit.  This is why the last guideline is that if you think they need urgent medical assistance then call 999 or 112.

The management of fits and seizures is something I discuss as part of my medical emergencies course for dentists if you would like to discuss your training needs then please contact me.

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