Seizure disorder

Most seizure disorders stem from a brain disorder commonly known as epilepsy, in which there are abnormal electrical discharges which cause temporary loss of control over certain body functions. Seizure disorders affect more than two million Americans, and can affect anyone.

Ignorance and myths about seizure disorders often cause more problems for a person with epilepsy than the condition itself. Because it is so misunderstood, employers often feel more reluctant hiring a person with epilepsy than any other disability.

Today 80 percent of people with epilepsy have their symptoms totally or partially controlled through continuing treatment. This enables the vast majority to lead active, self-supporting and long lives.

While causes for epilepsy are not totally understood, it is known that it can be related to head trauma, birth defects, poisons, diseases such as measles and encephalitis, circulatory disorders, brain tumor, and poor nutrition.

There are three main types of seizures: grand mal, petit mal, and partial. Grand mal is characterized by loss of consciousness, stiffening or shaking of the entire body, violent jerking of the limbs and irregular breathing.

Petit mal seizures can take the form of having a "blank spell", losing awareness, twitching, and/or staring and blinking. This is sometimes mistaken for daydreaming or inattentiveness.
Partial seizures may involve mental confusion accompanied by aimless movements (e.g., pacing, hand-rubbing and irritability). This is occasionally mistaken for alcohol/drug abuse.

Whenever a person with a seizure disorder is seen by a counselor in the DSS office, we advise them to inform their instructors and Campus Police of their particular situation.

Following are some simple procedures to follow if a student or staff member should have a seizure.


First signs and symptoms

In cases of severe seizures, such as the grand mal epileptic seizure, any or all of the following may be present.

  • Sudden loss of consciousness with student falling to the ground.
  • Student may report bright light, bright colors, or sensation of strong odor prior to losing consciousness.
  • The student may begin experiencing convulsions, jerking motions over all parts of the body. Breathing will be labored and there may be frothing at the mouth.
  • After convulsions, the student's body may stiffen.
  • When the student becomes conscious, he/she may be very tired and confused. The student may complain of a headache.

Because of legal responsibilities, Contra Costa Community College District policy requires that a member of Police Services be summoned in case a person on campus has a seizure with convulsions. You, as the instructor can do the following to ensure the safety of the student:

Ask another student to get to a campus phone and call x2333, the Police Service emergency number. Police Service officers are trained to respond to individuals experiencing seizures. In the meantime:

  1. Place the student on the floor or ground to prevent a fall.
  2. Loosen restrictive clothing.
  3. Do not try to hold the student still during the convulsions. Your primary job is to protect the student from injury until Police Service arrive. Keep the student from striking any nearby objects.
  4. After convulsions have passed, keep the student at rest, with the head positioned to allow for drainage in case of vomiting.
  5. Protect the student from embarrassment by asking onlookers to give the student some privacy, perhaps by announcing a break or terminating the class session if near the end of the session.