Focal seizure first aid

Watch this short video of a focal seizure and how to help.

You may also hear this type of seizure called a partial seizure. Someone having a focal seizure may not be aware of their surroundings or what they are doing.

They may have unusual movements and behaviour such as plucking at their clothes, smacking their lips, swallowing repeatedly or wandering around.

Here’s how to help if you see someone having a focal seizure.


  • Guide them away from danger (such as roads or open water)
  • Stay with them until recovery is complete
  • Be calmly reassuring
  • Explain anything that they may have missed


  • Don’t restrain them
  • Don’t act in a way that could frighten them, such as making abrupt movements or shouting at them
  • Don’t assume they are aware of what is happening, or what has happened
  • Don’t give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Don’t attempt to bring them round

Focal seizures do not normally need medical attention. You should call an ambulance if any of these things apply:

  • You know it’s the person’s first seizure
  • The seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes
  • They have one seizure after another without regaining awareness between seizures
  • They are injured during the seizure
Published: October 2021
Last modified: May 2023
To be reviewed: January 2023
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