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First Aid quick guide

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First Aid quick guide

This guide is particularly relevant for tonic clonic seizures where the person shakes or jerks.

Although seizures can be frightening to see, they are not usually a medical emergency. Usually, once the seizure stops, the person recovers and their breathing goes back to normal.

How to help if someone is having a seizure

  1. Try to stay calm.
  2. Look around - is the person in a dangerous place? If not, don't move them. Move objects like furniture away from them.
  3. Note the time the seizure starts.
  4. Cushion their head with something soft if they have collapsed to the ground.
  5. Look for medical jewellery or an ID card for information about what to do.
  6. Don't hold them down.
  7. Don't put anything in their mouth.
  8. Try to stop other people crowding around.
  9. After the seizure has stopped, gently put them into the recovery position and check that their breathing is returning to normal. Gently check their mouth to see that nothing is blocking their airway such as food or false teeth. If their breathing sounds difficult after the seizure has stopped, call for an ambulance.
  10. Try to minimise any embarrassment. If they have wet themselves, deal with this as privately as possible.
  11. Stay with them until they are fully recovered. They may need gentle reassurance.
  12. Do not give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered.

When to call 999

Usually, when a person has an epileptic seizure there is no need to call an ambulance. However, always dial 999 for an ambulance if any of the following apply:

  • you know it is the person’s first seizure;
  • they have injured themselves badly;
  • they have trouble breathing after the seizure has stopped;
  • one seizure immediately follows another with no recovery in between;
  • the seizure lasts two minutes longer than is usual for them; or 
  • you do not know how long their seizures last.

If you need to make a call to the emergency services on an Android or iPhone device, there are ways to automatically send your GPS location to the emergency services at the same time.

Some people recover quickly from a tonic clonic seizure, but often they will be very tired, want to sleep, and may not feel back to normal for several hours or sometimes days.

Information updated: December 2021