When the average citizen sees someone pass out or start convulsing, their first instinct is probably to dial 9-1-1.
Unfortunately, too many emergency medical services (EMS) personnel do not know how to recognize or treat a person experiencing a seizure.
When someone is having a seizure they often become confused, cannot communicate and do not understand or respond to questions or orders. Forceful methods of restraint, such as tasering, hog-tying, facedown holds and choke holds can put people with epilepsy in serious danger. Tragically, there have even been deaths of people who had a seizure when first responders didn’t recognize that the symptoms they were responding to were the signs of a seizure.
Nearly 3 million people live with epilepsy in the United States, so it’s especially important that first responders recognize seizure symptoms. Through a partnership with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Epilepsy Foundation has launched a national EMS training program to give first responders the skills they need to effectively and appropriately respond to individuals having seizures.
The program, currently in pilot with select local affiliates across the country, will teach more than 600 first responders in Northern California how to appropriately respond to persons having seizures. In Alabama, four junior colleges are incorporating the curriculum into their EMS program. The Foundation is using e-mail, e-newsletters, national conference presentations and first-responder Web sites to inform as many EMS personnel as possible about this new training program.
First responders must understand the signs and intervention techniques that are appropriate for people having seizures to ensure safe and supportive emergency care for their clients.