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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.

Pay it forward

This resource is freely available as part of Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving life for all those affected by epilepsy.

On average it costs £414 to produce an advice and information page – if you have valued using this resource, please text FUTURE to 70500 to donate £3 towards the cost of our future work. Terms and conditions. Thank you


We can provide references and information on the source material we use to write our epilepsy advice and information pages. Please contact our Epilepsy Helpline by email at helpline@epilepsy.org.uk.
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 10 comments or add yours

Comments

Hi, one of my close friends at school recently had a seizure in one of my classes and it was a terrifying experience, she's been to the docotors and they don't know if she'll have another one or not. This has really got to me as I'm one of her good friends and sit next to her in a lot of my lessons. It makes me nervous and worried when I'm around her and I don't know what to do about it. What do I do if she has one and I'm sat next to her in a lesson?

Submitted by Nina on

Hi Nina

Thanks for asking us. It’s great that you want to support your friend.

It can be very scary to see someone having a seizure, especially when it’s someone you care about.

Here is our information about first aid. There are different types of seizures so make sure you are looking at the information for the right kind. Definitely ask your friend what you can do to help. She may have been given some particular information by her doctor.

You could help her by making sure she is safe and not banging into anything. And make sure that a teacher knows as quickly as possible that she is having a seizure.

And the best thing you can do is to be supportive to her. So talking together about what it feels like and what her concerns are, helping her to talk to other people in the class would be brilliant. And if she is having any problems that you can’t work out together, maybe encourage her to go to a member of staff who she feels comfortable with.

And if you have worries that you don’t feel it would be a good idea to share with your friend, maybe you could find an adult either at school or in your family to talk to about them.

As well as our main site, you might also want to look at our website for young people.

Also you or your friend are very welcome to ring our freephone epilepsy helpline if you still have worries or questions.

Cherry

Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry on

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

Hello

It is usually best to wait until a seizure is over before moving a person. This is to reduce the risk of injury to themselves and the first aider. Our first aid information offers more guidance on ways you can support a person having a seizure. You may also find our first aid e-learning helpful.

Karen
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Sacha 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