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Purple Day: What it is and how it could help you save somebody's life


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While in the UK most people's thoughts this March 26th were on Mother’s Day, internationally the day marked Purple Day.

Purple Day asks people to wear purple to raise awareness and support for those living with epilepsy. According to charity Young Epilepsy, around 50 million people across the world have the neurological disorder – which causes seizures in sufferers.

The video from the Epilepsy Society below explains more about the condition – and some of the myths it dispels makes it a must-watch.

So epilepsy is a complicated, not uncommon and perhaps misunderstood condition. Flashing lights are not the key issue many think it is and seizures are broadly diverse from person to person.

Purple Day is all about making sure people understand this – and doing so could be the first step to you helping someone in need.

So, what should you be aware of to make sure you’re able to help if someone you know has epilepsy or someone near you has a seizure? Here’s the important questions answered.

What can cause a seizure?

Woman drinking
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

According to Epilepsy Action, common seizure triggers for those suffering with the condition include:

- Alcohol
- Stress.
- Tiredness.
- Menstruation.
- Missing meals.
- Not taking prescribed epilepsy medicine.

If you have a friend who has epilepsy, it is worth asking them to find out what commonly triggers their seizures. By doing so, your awareness is raised of when they are at risk and you may be able to help advise them at a later date.

How do you spot a seizure?

Seizures come in various guises and vary in severity.

Sometimes the person can stay conscious but they become dizzy, twitch or their senses are affected – whilst at the other end of the spectrum unconsciousness, collapse and a stiffening or shaking of the body can be caused – with the more serious coming with a risk of death.

Signs of a seizure can vary then. According to Healthline, they can include:

- Staring blankly.
- Confusion.
- Unresponsiveness.
- Repetitive movements, twitching or jerks, including lip smacking and blinking.
- Muscle stiffness.
- Collapse.

Again you should be aware of how your friend’s epilepsy manifests itself so you can know the symptoms to look out for and what your response should be.

What if someone is having a seizure?

Response to a seizure can of course vary depending on the seizure they are having. However, you can adapt these suggestions from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Ninds) depending on whether someone has collapsed or if they are still standing:

- Roll the person on his or her side to prevent choking on any fluids or vomit.
- Cushion the person’s head.
- Loosen any tight clothing around their neck, such as a tie or shirt.
- Don’t restrict them form moving or wandering unless they are in danger.
- Don’t put anything in the person’s mouth as this may cause a choking hazard. Contrary to popular belief, people having seizures do not swallow their tongues.
- Remove any dangerous objects the person may walk into or hit.
- Note how long the seizure lasts so you can tell doctors later if necessary.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends

When should an ambulance be called?

(Peter Byrne/PA)

According to the US institute, you should call for an ambulance under these circumstances:

- If the seizures lasts longer than five minutes.
- The seizure happened in water.
- The person is pregnant or has diabetes.
- The person doesn’t regain consciousness or breathe normally after the seizure.
- The person injures themselves during the seizure.

Emergency services should also be called if this is the first seizure they’ve had. If you don’t know the person they may be wearing jewellery or carrying a card which explains they have the condition.

If you do know the person having the seizure you should make sure you’re aware they have epilepsy – and it’s this awareness which Purple Day is all about.

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