Seizure first aid for people with epilepsy

  • November 26, 2021
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In this article
The Epsy Team are seizure first aid certified

If you have epilepsy, it’s helpful for the people around you to know some basic seizure first aid. It could stop you from getting injured, avoid unnecessary visits to the Emergency Room, and keep you safe.

Here’s what you need to know about epileptic seizure first aid.

Important: When to call 911?

If a seizure lasts for five minutes – or the person has multiple seizures without regaining full consciousness – this is status epilepticus.

Status epilepticus is a medical emergency and you must call 911

Basic seizure first aid

Most epileptic seizures last between a few seconds and a couple of minutes. If you have had seizures before, you won’t normally need to go to hospital. Basic seizure first aid is normally enough.

It’s helpful for the people around you to know how to recognize your seizures. While many people will be familiar with what a tonic clonic seizure looks like, they might not recognize absence seizures, for example. So it can be useful to explain to family, friends, coworkers and teachers what your seizures look like.

The Epilepsy Foundation’s seizure first aid #StaySafeSide campaign provides some simple steps everyone should know about treating seizures:

  • Stay with the person and begin timing the seizure. You should not go away looking for help. Remain calm and check if they have any medical ID on them. If the seizure lasts for longer than five minutes, call 911.
  • Safe means you should gently move the person away from any dangerous or sharp objects. If they are wandering around, gently steer them away from dangers such as roads or subway platforms.
  • Side means if the person is on the ground and unconscious, you should try to turn them onto their side. Loosen any tight clothing around the neck (such as buttons or ties).

These simple steps are designed for any kind of epileptic seizure. If someone cares for you regularly, they might want to consider taking an Epilepsy Foundation seizure first aid certificate course. This means they’ll know about more advanced treatment, such as first aid for absence seizures or first aid for children having seizures.

What people shouldn’t do if you’re having a seizure

The CDC lists a number of things that people should not do if you are having a seizure. These include:

  • Holding the person down
  • Trying to restrain the person
  • Putting things in their mouth (people having seizures cannot swallow their tongues)
  • Giving mouth to mouth resuscitation
  • Offering the person water or food before they’re fully recovered

Creating a seizure first aid plan

It can be useful to sit down with your epilepsy treatment team and create a seizure first aid plan that is personalized to you. You can print this out and give it to family, friends, teachers and coworkers. You could also keep it in a medical bracelet you wear on your wrist or ankle.

Having a seizure first aid plan is especially helpful if you live somewhere far from a hospital and may need emergency rescue medication. Your loved ones might need to use this medication, so having a plan means they know what to do.

Help people to help you with Epsy

If you use Epsy, you might want to give people close to you access to the app. After you’ve had a seizure, you might not feel like writing it down. So if your friends, family and caregivers can access the app for you, they’ll be able to register the information for your doctor. 

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