It is important for the public to know how to respond to all seizures. The first line of response when a person has a seizure is to provide general care and comfort and keep the person safe. For the majority of seizures, basic seizure first aid is all that may be needed.
When providing first aid for generalized tonic-clonic seizures, these are the key things to remember:
- Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
- Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
- Time the seizure with your watch.
- Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
- Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
- Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
- Turn him or her gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear. Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. It is not true that a person having a seizure can swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can cause injury.
- Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
- Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
- Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home by himself
When providing first aid for partial seizures, these are the key things to remember:
- Speak quietly and in a reassuring manner. Some people may be able to hear during a seizure.
- Do not yell at the person, or restrain him or her unless absolutely necessary to keep the person safe. They may be confused and react differently to emotional or physical stimulation.
- Keep the person safe. For example: Keep them away from hot objects, surfaces or fire. Keep them away from dangerous situations, equipment or places. Keep them from wandering or running in dangerous places.
- Other behaviors during complex partial seizures may cause worry, but are usually not dangerous. These include screaming, kicking, ripping up papers, disrobing, sexual-like movements, and, rarely, masturbation. Stay next to the person when these occur and prevent injury.
- If someone is known to have unusual automatisms, he or she should be guided in a quiet and reassuring manner to a more private place if possible.
Call for Emergency Help if…
- A seizure lasts 5 minutes or longer.
- One seizure occurs right after another without the person regaining consciousness or coming to between seizures.
- Seizures occur closer together than usual for that person.
- Breathing becomes difficult or the person appears to be choking.
- The seizure occurs in water.
- Injury may have occurred.
- The person asks for medical help.
Here are a few first aid printouts to put in your office, school or home: