Why teachers need to learn seizure first aid


Hannah F

4/14/20232 min read

If you follow this blog or you know anything about the statistics regarding epilepsy, you know that epilepsy isn’t rare. 1 in 10 will have a seizure in their life, and 1 in 26 will be diagnosed with epilepsy. If we take into account that the average school in America has approximately 526 students in it, that would mean that, on average, each school has about 20 kids that are currently attending that have been diagnosed with epilepsy. With numbers this large you would think the school system would prioritize teaching the school staff how to recognize and handle seizures. Although this is slowly changing, in most states, this is still not a priority. But why is it so important for teachers to know about seizure first aid? Frankly, it can be a matter of life and death, and I’d like to share my experience in high school to show what happens when teachers are unprepared. 

My high school was made aware of my epilepsy from day one. We provided them information on what to do in case I had a seizure, and to put it quite clearly, no one followed through and learned seizure first aid. The first seizure I had at school was a grand mal seizure. The teacher was completely unprepared and did just about everything wrong. My head wasn’t protected, so I hit my head. They didn’t time the seizure, so I was actively seizing for over 15 minutes before my friend stepped in and administered my emergency medication because none of the teachers knew how to do it. One of my other seizures was an absence seizure. Since I was actively shaking, no one noticed for over 30 minutes. We had many instances where my seizures went unnoticed or untreated. Please note that after 5 minutes of actively seizing, it is considered a medical emergency because your brain starts to die. You can imagine I’ve had lots of long-term damage and unnecessary hospital visits due to my school’s lack of education. 

If the teachers in my class had known what to do, they could have noticed my absence seizures before they became a medical emergency and stopped my tonic-clonic attacks with my emergency medication. Sure, some schools are much better at dealing with epilepsy than mine was, but this was just my personal experience. Instead of another person having to suffer as I did, teachers need to be taught how to recognize seizures and how to deal with them. Currently, there is a Seizure Safe School Act (we have talked about this in other posts) that is trying to be passed on the state-by-state level. What this bill would do is provide teachers with proper training on being able to recognize what different types of seizures look like and how to perform seizure first aid. Teachers would be able to tell the difference between an absence and a tonic-clonic seizure, be able to properly help those who are actively having a seizure, and be able to administer any emergency medication needed. This bill could solve this issue, so if you are passionate, please write to your representatives to make them aware of this bill!