First aid during a seizure

It is almost impos­sible to stop a seizure once it has begun. The most impor­tant thing is to prevent the person having the seizure from being injured.

During a major epileptic seizure the person will lose conscious­ness and fall to the ground. Their body will go stiff and they will jerk and shake. These movements are gener­ally severe.

A seizure usually lasts one to two minutes. It is uncommon for a seizure to last longer than that, but it could last only a few seconds. Some people become confused after having a seizure and need to rest or sleep.

What should you do?

  • Stay calm
  • Remove the person from any danger
  • Move any nearby objects that could cause injury
  • Put something soft under their head
  • Loosen any tight clothing around their neck
  • Take off their glasses
  • Look at the time: Note the length of the seizure

During the seizure:

  • Do not put anything between the person’s teeth
  • Do not attempt to prevent the convulsions
  • Do not sit the person up
  • Do not give them anything to drink
  • Do not attempt resuscitation

After the seizure:

  • Place the person into the recovery position
  • Clear their airways (of saliva or vomit)
  • Stay with the person while they remain confused
  • Offer the person somewhere to rest, and offer help and assis­tance (but do not insist)

Medical help is not usually neces­sary unless:

  • The convul­sions last longer than 3 minutes
  • The person remains unconscious
  • The person suffers further seizures
  • The person has serious injuries
  • The person is no longer able to breathe properly.

During other types of seizure, for examples those involving confu­sion, clumsi­ness, absences, etc., remain calm and stay with the person until the seizure is over. Then tell the person how long the seizure lasted and what happened.

Author: Günter Krämer
Last updated: September 2020.

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