Get Seizure Smart!

Picture of a woman smiling towards camera.

About 1 in 10 people may have a seizure in their lifetime.1,2 Follow these easy steps to help someone during or after a seizure.

  • There are many different types of seizures.
  • Seizures might not look like what you would expect. Some seizures cause a person to act confused or stare. Other seizures may cause a person to lose awareness and shake.
  • Most seizures last for just a few minutes.

First aid for all types of seizures

To help someone who is having any type of seizure:

Do I Call 911?

Seizures don’t usually require emergency medical attention. Only call 911 if one or more of these things happen:

  • The person has never had a seizure before.
  • The person has trouble breathing or waking up after the seizure.
  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The person has another seizure soon after the first one.
  • The person is hurt during the seizure.
  • The seizure happens in water.
  • The person has a health condition like diabetes or heart disease, or is pregnant.
  1. Stay with the person and keep them safe from injury until the seizure ends.
  2. After it ends, help the person sit in a safe place.
  3. Once the person is alert and can talk, comfort them and explain what happened, speaking calmly and in very plain terms.
  4. Keep yourself and other people calm.
  5. Check to see if the person is wearing a medical bracelet, which would tell you if they have epilepsy or another medical condition, and who to call for help.
  6. Offer to call a ride, friend, or relative to make sure the person gets home safely.

Extra steps may be needed to help someone who is having a seizure with muscle stiffening, jerking, falling, or loss of awareness—called a “generalized seizure”


When a person is having a generalized seizure, they may cry out, fall, shake or jerk, and become unaware of what’s going on around them.

To help someone who is having a generalized seizure:

  1. Ease the person to the floor.
  2. Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help their breathing.
  3. Clear the area around them of anything hard or sharp to prevent injury.
  4. Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under their head.
  5. Take off their eyeglasses.
  6. Loosen ties or anything around their neck that may make it hard to breathe.
  7. Time the seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
Stop! Do NOT
Stop sign
  • Do not hold the person down or try to stop their movements.
  • Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. This can injure their teeth or jaw.
  • Do not try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths (like with CPR). People usually breathe on their own after a seizure.
  • Do not offer the person water or food until they are fully alert.

Get Trained!

Seizure first aid is easy for anyone to learn and to give. Some people may need to understand how to provide more specialized help, including:

  • People who have loved ones with epilepsy.
  • People who coach or lead groups.
  • People who work in public settings such as schools.

CDC supports the Epilepsy Foundation to provide free, online seizure first aid training and certification. Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES/MCHES) may receive continuing education contact hours for participating. For more information, visit the Epilepsy Foundation.

More Information
  1. Hauser WA, Beghi E. First seizure definitions and worldwide incidence and mortality. Epilepsia. 2008;49(Suppl.1):8-12. html.
  2. Hesdorffer DC, Logroscino G, Benn EKT, Katri N, Cascino G. Hauser WA. Estimating risk for developing epilepsy. Neurology 2011;76:23-27. html.