The basic rule of seizure first aid is to protect the person from injury. If you witness someone having a seizure, you should know:
What To Do:
- Remain calm. Clear the area of anything that could harm or injure the person, like sharp objects. Loosen any tight clothing around the person’s neck to prevent choking. Put something flat and soft under the person’s head to prevent injury. Gently turn the person onto his or her side to help keep the airway clear.
- Time how long the seizure lasts.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends.
What Not To Do:
- Do not try to restrain or hold the person down or try to stop his or her movements.
- Do not try to force the mouth open. People cannot swallow their tongues during a seizure. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure the teeth or jaw.
- Do not perform CPR except in the unlikely event that the person stops breathing after the seizure has ended.
Keep in Mind:
Most seizures last less than 5 minutes. After the seizure has ended, the person may be confused and sleepy for about 30 minutes.
An ambulance (911) should be called if:
- The person never had a seizure before
- Seizures last more than 5 minutes
- Multiple seizures occur one after the other
- An injury occurred during the seizure
- The person is pregnant
- The seizure occurred in the water
- The person does not gradually recover consciousness after the motor movements (convulsions) have stopped
A person with epilepsy should wear a medical-alert bracelet or necklace that gives the person's diagnosis, medications, telephone numbers of the doctor, and the person to call in case of an emergency. This can help avoid unnecessary emergency room visits if a seizure occurs in a public place.
MedicAlert is a nonprofit organization that provides bracelets, necklaces, and cards. For more information, call 1-888-633-4298.