Absence seizure first aid

Someone having an absence seizure is not conscious for a few seconds and isn’t aware of what is happening. They will stop doing whatever they were doing before it started. They are unlikely to fall down, unless they lose their balance.

Absence seizures can be very hard to spot, and it might look like the person is daydreaming or ‘switching off’.

They might blink, or have slight jerking movements of their body, arms or legs. They won’t know what is happening around them and they can’t be brought out of it.

Absences can happen one after another. Some people have hundreds of absence seizures a day. They may be more common when the person is falling asleep or waking up.

How to help

  • Gently guide the person away from any danger (especially if they are having repeated absences)
  • Stay with them until they are fully recovered
  • Be calm and reassuring
  • Explain anything they may have missed



Other advice

It’s important that you don’t hold the person down or move them unless they are in danger. You shouldn’t try to bring them round, and never give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered.

Medical help

As absence seizures are very short, people usually recover straight away and are able to carry on with what they were doing. They would only need medical help or to go to A&E if they have badly injured themselves.

If someone has had a first absence seizure, they might not need medical help at the time. But they should make an appointment to see a doctor who can decide if any tests or a referral to a specialist are needed. We have more information on our diagnosis page.

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This information has been produced under the terms of the PIF TICK. The PIF TICK is the UK-wide Quality Mark for Health Information. Please contact website@epilepsy.org.uk if you would like a reference list for this information.
Published: January 2024
Last modified: April 2024
To be reviewed: January 2027
Tracking: A047.02