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National Epilepsy Awareness Month — November 2015

Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures; an estimated 2.9 million persons in the United States have active epilepsy (1). A seizure is a brief change in normal brain activity that changes awareness, behavior, or body movement. More than 30 different types of seizures have been described (2). A report in this issue characterizes seizures in children and adolescents aged 6–17 years in the United States.

Because seizures can affect anyone, members of the public need to know how to safely assist a person having a seizure. Not all seizures are emergencies, and most will end within a few minutes. The first response to witnessing a seizure should be to remain calm and provide care and comfort. A person with a convulsive seizure might cry out, fall, stiffen, shake, or lose awareness. If possible, the person should be helped to sit safely or should be guided gently to the floor. Once on the floor, a person should be turned on the side to keep the airway clear; nearby objects should be moved to prevent injury, and the head should be cushioned. A person witnessing a seizure in someone should call 911 if a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, causes an injury, occurs in a person with another known condition (e.g., pregnancy or low blood sugar in diabetes), or causes a person to have difficulty breathing or waking after the seizure is over.

CDC works to improve the health and well-being of persons with epilepsy and to educate the public about this disorder (3). Additional information about providing first aid for seizures is available at and


  1. CDC. Epilepsy fast facts. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. Available at
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Epilepsy: hope through research. Washington, DC: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; 2015. Available at
  3. CDC. Epilepsy. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. Available at

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