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Seizure First Aid

Large group of diverse peopleAbout 1 out of 10 people may have a seizure in his or her lifetime.1 That means seizures are common, and one day you might need to help someone during or after a seizure. 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 Seizures

When most people think of a seizure, they think of a generalized seizure. In this type of seizure, the person may cry out, fall, shake or jerk, and become unaware of what’s going on around them.

Here are things you can do to help someone who is having that type of seizure:

	One woman consoling another one

First aid for seizures involves keeping the person safe until the seizure stops by itself.

  1. Ease the person to the floor.
  2. Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help the person breathe.
  3. Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp to prevent injury.
  4. Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his or her head.
  5. Remove eyeglasses.
  6. Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe.
  7. Time the seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  8. Stay with the person until the seizure ends and the person is fully awake.
  9. Be friendly and reassuring
  10. Offer to call a taxi, friend, or relative if the person seems confused or unable to get home without help.

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 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.

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. Holding the tongue down can injure the teeth or jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow his or her 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.

First Aid for Other Types 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. The person may also 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 he or she becomes fully aware.

References

  1. Hauser WA, et al. Descriptive epidemiology of epilepsy: Contributions of population-based studies from Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 1996;71(6):576-86.

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