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What to do when someone has a seizure

First aid for seizures

Find out about our Take epilepsy action campaign, and how you can get involved in raising awareness of different kinds of seizures and first aid. You can also download this video.

Tonic-Clonic seizures

The person goes stiff, loses consciousness and then falls to the ground. This is followed by jerking movements. A blue tinge around the mouth is likely. This is due to irregular breathing. Loss of bladder and/or bowel control may happen. After a minute or two the jerking movements should stop and consciousness may slowly return.

Do...

  • Protect the person from injury - (remove harmful objects from nearby)
  • Cushion their head
  • Look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery
  • Aid breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position once the seizure has finished (see pictures)
  • Stay with the person until recovery is complete
  • Be calmly reassuring

The recovery position

Don't...

  • Restrain the person’s movements
  • Put anything in the person’s mouth
  • Try to move them unless they are in danger
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

Call for an ambulance if...

  • You know it is the person’s first seizure, or
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes, or
  • One tonic-clonic seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness between seizures, or
  • The person is injured during the seizure, or
  • You believe the person needs urgent medical attention

Focal (partial) seizures

Sometimes the person may not be aware of their surroundings or what they are doing. They may pluck at their clothes, smack their lips, swallow repeatedly, and wander around.

Do...

  • Guide the person from danger
  • Stay with the person until recovery is complete
  • Be calmly reassuring
  • Explain anything that they may have missed

Don't...

  • Restrain the person
  • Act in a way that could frighten them, such as making abrupt movements or shouting at them
  • Assume the person is aware of what is happening, or what has happened
  • Give the person anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

Call for an ambulance if...

  • You know it is the person's first seizure
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes
  • The person is injured during the seizure
  • You believe the person needs urgent medical attention

First aid for people who use a wheelchair

If you use a wheelchair, or you have other mobility problems, speak to your GP or epilepsy specialist. They should give you a care plan, which includes advice on how people should help you if you have a seizure.

Here are some general first aid guidelines for people who have a seizure in a wheelchair.

Do...

  • Put the brakes on, to stop the chair from moving
  • Allow the person to remain seated in the chair during the seizure (unless they have a care plan which says to move them). Moving the person could possibly lead to injuries for the person having the seizure and the carer
  • If the person has a seatbelt or harness on, leave it fastened
  • if the person doesn’t have a seatbelt or harness, support them gently, so they don’t fall out of the chair
  • Cushion the person’s head and support it gently. A head rest, cushion or rolled up coat can be helpful

The person’s care plan should give advice on what to do after the seizure has finished. For example, whether it is safe to move the person from the chair to put them in the recovery position.

Don't...

  • Restrain the person’s movements
  • Put anything in the person’s mouth
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round 

First aid in other languages

PDF First aid for seizures: Available in:
For me
Please cushion my head etc

French
German
Spanish

For someone
Please cushion their head

French
German
Spanish

For an English version with illustrations of the recovery position download the printer friendly version at the top of this page.

For first aid posters for tonic-clonic seizures and for complex partial seizures, download the pdf at the top of this page.

Code: 
B046, B046C

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated August 2013
    To be reviewed August 2016

Comments: read the 13 comments or add yours

Comments

my daughter swing the head 5 times and this shake the body where she looses balance and get stiffed the whole body but after she finished she cant remember what she was talking about or doing but she doesn't fall. how can i help her to improve her memory ?

Submitted by esther willy on

Hi Esther.
I’m not sure what type of seizure your daughter is having, but it is quite normal not to be able to remember anything that happened around the time of a seizure. If she is having memory problems at other times we have some information on things that might help with memory loss, which might help.

Cherry
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

Is it safe to gently put a child on their side during a tonic clonic seizure? Or should you always wait until the seizure is over?

Thanks :)

Submitted by applewood on

I'm 27 years old I have a son 2 months old, I've never had a seizure but I had one last week, what could be the cause?

Submitted by Brittany on

Hi Brittany

That must have been scary for you. It is difficult to say what could have caused you to have a seizure. It  is possible for a person to have one isolated seizure at some point in their life, yet not be diagnosed with epilepsy. It is a good idea for you to speak to your GP. Your GP will then be able to take a medical history from you and begin to look for what possible causes.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Karen
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on

I don't know what to do I had a seizure last night it's first time I've had one should I tell someone ?

Submitted by Sarah on

Hello Sarah
Many thanks for your message. This must be worrying for you.

If you think you have had a seizure, it would be a good idea to speak to your GP. They will talk to you about what happened and may arrange for you to see a specialist doctor at the hospital. They will make sure you get the right treatment and care.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Karen
Epilepsy Action Advice & Information Team

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on

I am an elementary school teacher and I was informed a few weeks ago that one of my students has seizures frequently. I really want to be prepared in case something were to happen in my class so this information will be really helpful. Is it best to go to an urgent care center after something like that happens? I will do my best to follow the tips and insights you have laid out.

Submitted by Jessy Shaw on

Dear Jessy
Thank you for your email.

We can only give general first aid information. What you should do following a seizure will depend on what is in the child’s individual health plan (IHP).  In the UK, there are legal requirement on schools to support children with medical conditions. An IHP is generally part of the requirement. The IHP should include information on what care the child needs following a seizure. Please feel free to use our IHP template if you wish to do a care plan for your pupil.

Apart from our first aid information, you may also find our online learning for teachers helpful.

Regards
Diane Wallace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

my brother have the seizure for sometimes.His heart beat increases..then he becomes normal again ...after some time He has another seizure and then another...Any advice?

Submitted by Kamal Aqeel on

Hi Kamal
Thank you for your question regarding your brother.

It must be a worrying and distressing time for you both when your brother has a seizure. I hope you find our information on what to do when someone has a seizure helpful. During a tonic-clonic seizure a person’s breathing and heart beat can be affected.  But it generally returns to normal when the seizure has stopped. It’s relieved by moving someone into the recovery position following a tonic-clonic seizure. This will help their breathing and heart rate return to normal.

If your brother is experience abnormal heart beats when he isn’t having a seizure, it would be best to talk to his family doctor.

As your brother is still having seizures, it’s important he is seeing his epilepsy specialist regular so they can review his treatment and look at other possible reasons for his seizures to still be happening. They may suggest trying a different dosage or type of his epilepsy medicine.

If he has tried various types of epilepsy medicines, it may be the specialist could look into other treatment options for him.

If your brother is not under a specialist, he will need to ask his family doctor to refer him. This would usually be to a neurologist. The ideally would be to someone with a specialist interest in epilepsy, as there are many different neurological conditions, and neurologists tend to specialise in different ones.

Would it help you and your brother could  talk or contact people who understand what you are experiencing.  If yes, we offer the following services to help with this;

local groups, our forum4e online community, facebook and twitter.

If we can be of any more help,  please feel free to contact us again, either by email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm.

Regards
Diane Wallace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

Hi I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 10 1/2 I was a gymnast & while training I just stood there for about an hour my coach blew a whistle in my ear but I didn't move & the same happened again while I was at school both my coach & teacher informed my mum so she took me doctors where I had tests like blood test ect & it was confirmed I had epilepsy so I had to give up my dream of being a professional gymnast but I never let it take over my life not all seizures are the same on 1 hand some could be worse & on the other hand some could be not so bad. There is support for anyone with epilepsy or the families of an epilepsy sufferer. I'm now An adult aged almost 28 & I have been in cardiac arrest 3 times due to my seizures in the space of 1 year so I need an ambulance straight away if I have 1 but I went almost 1 year without having any then sometime this year I had 2 absent seizures but luckily I haven't had anymore since. Link line is a service than can also help you x

Submitted by Lara on