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Water first aid

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First aid in water

First aid by pool

Focal or absence seizures

How to help

  • hold their head above the water level or guide them away from deep water. Once they have recovered, they may feel confused or need to rest.

Tonic clonic seizures

How to help

  • if possible, keep the person's face out of the water by gently tilting their head.
  • call out to the lifeguard for help and try to move the person to more shallow water.
  • once they are out of the water, try to cushion their head.
  • do not restrain them or put anything in their mouth. They will not swallow their tongue.
  • when the seizure has stopped. place them in the recovery position and keep them warm.
  • stay with them until they have fully recovered.

Myoclonic seizures

Myoclonic means ‘muscle jerk’. Muscle jerks are not always due to epilepsy (for example, some people have them as they fall asleep). Myoclonic seizures are brief but can happen in clusters (many happening close together in time) and often happen shortly after waking.

Tonic and atonic seizures

In an atonic seizure (or 'drop attack') the person’s muscles suddenly relax and they become floppy. If they are standing they often fall, usually forwards, and may injure the front of their head or face. Like tonic seizures, atonic seizures tend to be brief and happen without warning. With both tonic and atonic seizures people usually recover quickly, apart from possible injuries.

Absence seizures

Absence seizures are more common in children than adults and can happen very frequently. During an absence a person becomes unconscious for a short time. They may look blank and stare, or their eyelids might flutter. They will not respond to what is happening around them. If they are walking they may carry on walking but will not be aware of what they are doing.

Seizure types

In March 2017 the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), a group of the world's leading epilepsy professionals, introduced a new method to group seizures. This gives doctors a more accurate way to describe a person's seizures, and helps them to prescribe the most appropriate treatments.


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