Seizure First Aid
About 1 out of 10 people has had a seizure. That means seizures are common, and one day you might need to help someone during or after a seizure.
But would you know what to do?
First aid for seizures involves keeping the person safe until the seizure stops by itself.
First Aid for Generalized Tonic-clonic (Grand Mal) Seizures
When most people think of a seizure, they think of a generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure. In this type of seizure, the person may cry out, lose consciousness, fall to the ground, and have rigidity and muscle jerks that last a few minutes.
Comfort and speak calmly with a person who has a seizure.
Here are things you can do to help someone who is having that type of seizure:
- Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
- Prevent injury by clearing the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
- Ease the person to the floor and put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under their head.
- Remove eyeglasses and loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe.
- Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
- Time the seizure. If the seizure continues for longer than 5 minutes without signs of slowing down, or if the person has trouble breathing, appears to be injured, in pain, or recovery is unusual in some way, call 911.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally and the person is fully awake.
- Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
- Offer to call a taxi, friend, or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home without help.
Here are some important things NOT to do:
- Do not hold the person down or try to stop their movements.
- Do not put anything in the person's mouth. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure the teeth or jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow their tongue.
- Do not attempt artificial respiration unless the person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped, which is unlikely.
- Do not offer the person water or food until they are fully alert.
Consider a seizure an emergency and call 911 if any of the following occurs:
- The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes without signs of slowing down or if a person has trouble breathing after, appears to be in pain, or recovery is unusual in some way.
- The person has another seizure soon after the first one.
- The person cannot be awakened after the seizure activity has stopped.
- The person became injured during the seizure.
- The person becomes aggressive.
- The seizure occurs in water.
- The person has a health condition like diabetes, heart disease, or is pregnant.
First Aid for Any Type of Seizure
There are also other types of seizures. Here are some things you can do to help someone who is having a seizure that appears as blank staring or loss of awareness, and may have involuntary blinking, chewing, or other facial movements:
- Stay calm and speak reassuringly.
- Guide the person away from dangers.
- Block access to dangerous items, but don't restrain the person.
- Stay a distance away if the person is agitated, but close enough to protect them until full awareness has returned.
- Page last reviewed: January 26, 2016
- Page last updated: January 26, 2016
- Content source:
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs