Seizure First Aid: Five Ways to Protect Someone During an Epileptic Seizure

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can affect anyone at any age. It’s characterized by recurring and unpredictable seizures. Some people are born with it – others experience it after a traumatic brain injury, stroke or brain tumor. Sometimes, doctors don’t know what causes it.

There are three major groups of seizures – general onset, focal onset and unknown onset. Symptoms vary and can include staring spells, fluttering eyes, loss of consciousness, and potentially dangerous convulsions and uncontrollable stiffening.

Watching a friend or loved one experience a seizure can be intimidating and create a feeling of helplessness. Staring spells don’t necessarily need any intervention, but severe muscle jerking requires action. 

It’s important to be prepared so you can respond swiftly and safely.

Dr. Aaron Farrow with Mercy Clinic Neurology has five things you need know about “Seizure First Aid.”

  1. Create a safe environment. You don’t want the person experiencing a seizure to fall or hit their head on a counter or a piece of furniture. The ideal situation is to get them to the floor and clear an area around them.
  2. Lay on the left. Once you have them on the floor, try to position them on their left side so if they vomit, they don’t choke. If you can’t get them on their left side, the right side is better than on their back.
  3. Check your watch. A seizure usually last one or two minutes although it may seem longer. Stay with them until the seizure is over. If it continues for five minutes, call 911.
  4. Take a deep breath. It’s important to remain calm, so you can help your friend or loved one.
  5. Watch closely and let them seize. Don’t try to hold them still – that could cause an injury. As long as you’ve set up a safe environment, they should be okay.

Some people with epilepsy have rescue medications that can be given during a seizure. Ask your friend or loved one if they have medication, where they keep it and when to use it.

After a seizure, your friend or loved one may feel “out of it” for about an hour, so keep a close eye on them. If they aren’t back to normal or “baseline” after an hour, call 911. Or if they have a seizure, the seizure is over, and they have another seizure, call 911.

Encourage your friend to talk to their doctor after a seizure. The doctor can adjust medications to help avoid more seizures in the future.

Written by Aaron Farrow, MD

Dr. Aaron Farrow is a neurologist practicing at Mercy Clinic Neurology in Oklahoma City. Learn more.