10 first aid steps (when someone has a convulsive seizure)
What to do when someone has a seizure where they shake or jerk (a convulsive seizure). This is intended as a quick first aid guide when someone is having a convulsive (tonic clonic or clonic) seizure. For more detail please see first aid for all seizure types.
Although it can be frightening to see, this type of seizure is not usually a medical emergency. Usually, once the convulsions have stopped, the person recovers and their breathing goes back to normal.
What to do
- Stay calm.
- Look around - is the person in a dangerous place? If not, don't move them. Move objects like furniture away from them.
- Note the time the seizure starts.
- Stay with them. If they don't collapse but seem blank or confused, gently guide them away from any danger. Speak quietly and calmly.
- Cushion their head with something soft if they have collapsed to the ground.
- Don't hold them down.
- Don't put anything in their mouth.
- Check the time again. If a convulsive (shaking) seizure doesn't stop after 5 minutes, call for an ambulance (dial 999).
- After the seizure has stopped, 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.
- Stay with them until they are fully recovered.
If they are injured, or they have another seizure without recovering fully from the first seizure, call for an ambulance.
Our free smartphone app contains first aid information including when to dial 999 and how to put someone in the recovery position. It is available on both iPhone and Android phones.