First aid for epilepsy is simple: the goal is to keep the person safe until the seizure runs its course.
First Aid for Convulsive Seizures (Tonic-Clonic)
- Prevent further injury. Place something soft under the head, loosen tight clothing, and clear the area of sharp or hard objects.
- Do not force objects or your finger into the person’s mouth. You cannot prevent tongue-biting and you may accidentally provoke an injury or choking.
- Do not restrict the person’s movements unless they place him or her in danger. You cannot stop limb movements during a seizure by restraining the person.
- Turn the person on his or her side to open the airway and allow secretions to drain.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends.
- Do not pour any liquids into the person’s mouth or offer any food, drink, or medication until he or she is fully awake.
- If the person does not resume breathing after the seizure, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- Let the person rest until he or she is fully awake.
- Be reassuring and supportive when consciousness returns.
- A convulsive seizure is usually not a medical emergency unless it continues beyond five minutes; a second seizure occurs soon after the first; or the person is pregnant, injured, diabetic, or not breathing easily. In these situations, call 911 and seek emergency help.
First Aid for Non-Convulsive Seizures (Absence, Simple Partial, Partial)
Nothing needs to be done for someone experiencing a seizure causing brief periods of staring or limb shaking. For the type of seizure that produces a dazed state and automatic behavior:
- Watch the person carefully and explain to others what is happening.
- Speak quietly and calmly in a friendly way.
- Guide the person gently away from any danger, such as a steep flight of steps, a busy highway, or a hot stove. Don’t grab hold, however, unless some immediate danger threatens.
- Stay with the person until full consciousness returns and offer help in returning home.
First Aid for Complex Partial Seizures
- Do not restrain the person.
- Remove dangerous objects from the person’s path.
- Calmly direct the person to sit down and guide him or her from dangerous situations. Observe, but do not approach, a person who appears angry or combative.
- Remain with the person until he or she is fully alert.
This information is presented as a service of the Epilepsy Foundation of Delaware. Medical knowledge changes rapidly and you should consult your medical practitioner for more recent or detailed information. This information is not medical advice. Do not change your medications as a result of this information without obtaining medical advice about your specific circumstance.