Tonic clonic, perhaps the type most people think of when they hear the word ‘seizure’.
Also known as ‘grand mal’, these involve the entire body during the convulsive state. There may be an aura before hand, mine has always been a sensation of pins and needles up my left arm before falling unconscious. There can also be a cry or a groan which is due to the air being forced past the vocal chords. If standing, falling and subsequent injury is likely.
The muscles stiffen and contract creating jerking movements and shaking. An essential part of information if you should ever observe this type of seizure is that whilst nothing can be done to prevent it after starting, if you can time the seizure, it can be lifesaving. They normally last between 1-3 minutes, any longer than that and an ambulance should be called. If the seizure itself is longer or if they are consecutive that’s when brain damage can occur; hence the importance of timing if possible.
Additional characteristics with this seizure is the person may develop a blueish tinge to their lips due to breathing issues, gargling noises can occur but the greatest myth is that the tongue can be swallowed. This is an impossibility. To move someone onto their side so their tongue doesn’t block the airway is important but it will never be swallowed. The cheek or tongue may also be bitten and there could be a presence of bloody saliva because of that.
Afterwards, it may take some time for the individual to recover. They may be confused, disoriented, sore and have a headache so support and reassurance at that time is essential.
Something I have heard many, many times is how it is empahsized not to call an ambulance with the seizure if it’s between 1-3 minutes. However, and this is purely my opinion only, because they are extremely frightening to observe, if for any reason you don’t feel confident or aren’t sure what to do, call an ambulance. I can’t stress enough how it’s better to be safe than sorry. Being a first aider, I have witnessed a number of seizures and they never get any less frightening in my book. My advice is if in doubt dial 911/999 or your local emergency service, you will never be wasting time if you’re concerned for someone’s life.