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Epilepsy. Four Common Untruths


A recent study from University College London suggests that a great many people still believe potentially harmful folklore regarding epilepsy.

Around a third of people would put something in the mouth of a person having a seizure to stop them swallowing their tongue but doing so is not only unnecessary but could block their airways.

67% of the 4,605 people that were asked said that they would call an ambulance immediately which is something that is only needed for first seizures that last more than five minutes; if the person is hurt; or has had several previous seizures.

Seizures are caused by sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain which stops the brain communicating normally with the body and epilepsy is diagnosed in people who have regularly recurring seizures.

Dr. Sallie Baxendale who was the lead author of the report said, "One problem is that seizures look extremely dramatic but the only thing to do is keep them safe and let the seizure run its course. It's extremely worrying that so many people were still trying to put things in people's mouths during a seizure. They think the person is going to swallow their tongue, but you can't actually do that. People having a seizure can bite down very hard so something in their mouth could damage their teeth and leave them with a huge dental bill and it could also damage the fingers of the person trying to help. Foaming and violence are not common symptoms of seizures but many people still believed these myths".

The symptoms depend on the type of seizure but experts recommend that if someone has a seizure that objects around them are removed and that their head be cushioned if they are on the floor.

The authors focused on four key untruths surrounding seizures.

* That there is the need to call an ambulance

* It is necessary to put something into the sufferer's mouth

* That people can swallow their tongues

* The commonness of foaming at the mouth and violence in seizures

The survey found that whereas 30-35% of those aged under 65 would put something in the mouth of someone having a seizure 57% of respondents aged over 65 said that they would do so.

Not surprisingly the authors also found that awareness of the correct things to do when someone has a seizure is considerably higher in people who know someone with epilepsy.