First Aid For Tonic-Clonic Seizures
What Is A Tonic-Clonic Seizure
Tonic-Clonic Seizures occur when the electrical activity in the brain short circuits leading to an involuntary change in a person’s movements, behaviour, level of awareness and ability to perceive feelings.
Electrical activity in the brain sends electrical impulses throughout the body that tell the body what to do, what they are touching, and the ambient temperature.
Tonic-clonic seizures are characterised by both the tonic phase (stiffening) & clonic phase (twitching or jerking) muscular activity. Most people think of a tonic-clonic seizure or convulsion when they think of a seizure. A tonic-clonic seizure usually begins on both sides of the brain but can start on one side and spread to the whole brain, and lead to loss of consciousness.
During a Seizure, a person will lose consciousness, their muscles will stiffen, and noticeable jerking or convulsing movements can be seen. Tonic-Clonic seizures last from one to three minutes.
Should a tonic-clonic seizure last for more than 5 minutes, it is classed as a medical emergency, and 000 emergency services should be called for an ambulance.
For more detailed information, the Epilepsy Foundation of Australia can be sourced via the hyperlink or by cutting and pasting into your browser:https://epilepsyfoundation.org.au/understanding-epilepsy/
How To Recognise A Tonic-Clonic Seizure
Tonic means stiffening, and Clonic means rhythmical jerking. As explained below, someone having a Tonic-Clonic seizure is cycling through both phases.
The tonic phase comes first:
- All the muscles stiffen.
- Air being forced past the vocal cords causes a cry or groan.
- The person loses consciousness and falls to the floor.
- A person may bite their tongue or inside of their cheek. If this happens, saliva may look a bit bloody.
After the tonic phase comes the clonic phase:
- The arms and usually the legs begin to jerk rapidly and rhythmically, bending and relaxing at the elbows, hips, and knees.
- After a few minutes, the jerking slows and stops.
- The person’s face may look dusky, or a bit blue if they have trouble breathing or the seizure lasts too long due to reduced oxygen intake.
- The person may lose control of their bladder or bowel as the body relaxes.
- Consciousness, or a person’s awareness, returns slowly and is of a different recovery duration in each person.
- These seizures generally last one to three minutes. Afterwards, the person may be sleepy, confused, irritable, or depressed.
- A tonic-clonic seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes needs immediate medical help. Call 000 for an ambulance in Australia.
- A seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes, or three seizures in a row without the person coming to between them, is a dangerous condition. This is called status epilepticus; emergency treatment in a hospital is needed.
First Aid For Assisting A Tonic-Clonic Seizure Patient
- Note the time a seizure starts and the length of time it lasts.
- Examine the surroundings and remove harmful objects.
- Cushion the head.
- Look for medical identity (for epilepsy bracelet).
- Avoid putting anything in the victim’s mouth.
- Don’t hold the person down.
- After the seizure stops, gently place the person in the recovery position on their side.
- Stay with the victim until they are fully recovered.
Complex Partial Seizures
Non-convulsive seizures with bewilderment, wandering, and unusual behaviours.
- Continue to be with the patient.
- The seizure should be timed.
- Keep the patient safe from any danger.
- To reassure the person, speak gently and quietly.
- Unless the patient is in danger, do not restrain them.
When To Call An Ambulance
- When the seizure lasts more than five minutes.
- When a patient undergoes one tonic-clonic seizure after another without recovering consciousness.
- If it is the patient’s first seizure
- If the patient is seriously injured
- If the patient has more than one seizure back-to-back
First Aid Course For Epilepsy
Take an accredited FACE First Aid course and discover how to manage and treat a wide range of situations a First Aid responder might encounter. Peruse our FACE Blog page for more First Aid and Medically related topics.
Check out this easy-to-follow First Aid For Tonic-Clonic Seizures action chart or copy and paste the link below.