How to help someone who is convulsing
I remember vividly the image of the roasted buttocks of a toddler brought in by his parents. The poor boy had a fit and his parents thought it wise to put him in fire in order to stop the convulsions!! Crazy right? Another boy needed surgery to correct the deformity in his feet after his grandmother burnt them when he was having a fit. Some people force feed a convulsing child with all manner of concoctions, like cow/human urine and others commonly put a spoon in the mouth to prevent biting of the tongue.
Convulsion occurs as a result of many factors that trigger a number of electrical activities in the brain. Repeated unprovoked convulsion is called epilepsy, which may be due to abnormal genes, previous brain injuries or unknown cause. Children between 6 months to 5 years have a tendency to have seizures when they have fever, an entity known as febrile convulsions.
Other causes of seizures include;
- Extremely low blood sugar
- Any illness that increases body temperature significantly
- Low levels of body chemicals like potassium and sodium
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Any infection affecting the brain e.g Meningitis, severe malaria
While it seems reasonable to prevent tongue biting, what is the worst that could happen? The tongue will bleed a little and the child will recover afterwards. If a metallic object is forced into the mouth during a seizure, the process can lead to fracture/breakage of a tooth, and this piece when swallowed can cause choking and death.
Force feeding during a fit is extremely dangerous and should not be practised at all. As a matter of fact, feeding any one who is not fully conscious is like ignorantly sending the person to an untimely grave. During seizures, and in people with altered consciousness, the ability to swallow is affected, hence any remedy(food, water or medications given through the mouth can easily find its way into the lungs, because the opening of the windpipe (trachea) is just in front of that of the food pipe (oesophagus).
Although convulsions involve the feet, hands and other parts of the body, it originates from the brain, hence, there is no reason why you should burn a child.
What can you do to help?
- Remove any dangerous objects from the scene
- Lay the victim on the side with the face turned on to one side; this is to prevent them from swallowing vomit and choking
- Call for help
- Take victim to the hospital
Essentially, when children develop fever, ensure their body temperatures do not get so high so as to prevent seizures, instead of setting them on fire when they eventually develop fits.