First Aid

First AidFirst aid for seizures is simple. Keep calm and make sure the person having the seizure is comfortable and safe from harm.

When providing seizure first aid for generalized tonic clonic (grand mal) seizures, these are the key things to remember:

  • Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
  • Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
  • Time the seizure with your watch.
  • Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
  • Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
  • Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
  • Turn him or her gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
  • Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. A person having a seizure CANNOT swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure teeth or jaw.
  • Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
  • Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
  • Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home by himself.

When these conditions exist, immediate medical attention is necessary:

  • Diabetes
  • Brain infections
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Pregnancy
  • Poisoning
  • Hypoglycemia
  • High fever
  • Head injury

Is an Emergency Room Visit Needed?

An un-complicated generalized tonic clonic (grand mal) seizure in someone who has epilepsy is not a medical emergency, even though it looks like one. It stops naturally after a few minutes without ill effects. The average person is able to continue about his business after a rest period, and may need only limited assistance, or no assistance at all, in getting home. In other circumstances, an ambulance should be called.

First Aid for Non-Convulsive Seizures

You don’t have to do anything if a person has brief periods of staring or shaking of the limbs.

First Aid in Special Locations and Circumstances
Information if a seizure happens in water, in an airplane, or on public transportation.

Head Injury During a Seizure
If the person hits his or her head while falling, his or her post-seizure condition should be carefully monitored.

Babysitter’s and Caregiver’s First Aid Guide
While you may never have to manage a seizure in a child with epilepsy, knowing what to do can make a big difference if a seizure does occur. In most cases, all you need to do is a few very simple things to keep the child safe until the seizure ends on its own.

Managing Prolonged Seizures in Children
If a seizure lasts more than five minutes without any sign of slowing down, is unusual in some way, or if a person has trouble breathing afterwards, appears to be injured or in pain, or recovery is different from usual, call for 911 for emergency help.

First Aid for Seniors
For seizures occurring in people of any age, there is one simple principle: protect the person from harm until full awareness returns.

When to Call for an Ambulance
For the following reasons:

  • the seizure has happened in water.
  • there’s no medical I.D., and no way of knowing whether the seizure is caused by epilepsy.
  • the person is pregnant, injured, or diabetic.
  • the seizure continues for more than five minutes.
  • a second seizure starts shortly after the first has ended.
  • consciousness does not start to return after the shaking has stopped.