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First aid quick guide

This guide is particularly relevant for tonic clonic seizures where the person shakes or jerks.

Although seizures can be frightening to see, they are not usually a medical emergency. Usually, once the seizure stops, the person recovers and their breathing goes back to normal.

How to help if someone is having a seizure

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Look around - is the person in a dangerous place? If not, don't move them. Move objects like furniture away from them.
  3. Note the time the seizure starts.
  4. Stay with them. If they don't collapse but seem blank or confused, gently guide them away from any danger. Speak quietly and calmly.
  5. Cushion their head with something soft if they have collapsed to the ground.
  6. Don't hold them down.
  7. Don't put anything in their mouth.
  8. Check the time again. If a seizure doesn't stop after 5 minutes, call for an ambulance (dial 999).
  9. After the seizure has stoppedgently 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.
  10. Stay with them until they are fully recovered.

When to call 999

Usually, when a person has an epileptic seizure there is no need to call an ambulance. However, always dial 999 for an ambulance if any of the following apply:

  • it is the person’s first seizure;
  • they have injured themselves badly;
  • they have trouble breathing after the seizure has stopped;
  • one seizure immediately follows another with no recovery in between;
  • the seizure lasts two minutes longer than is usual for them; or 
  • the seizure lasts for more than five minutes.

If you need to make a call to the emergency services on an Android or iPhone device, there are ways to automatically send your GPS location to the emergency services at the same time.

Woman helps a man into the recovery position

First aid for all seizure types

Seizure-specific first aid for dealing with all types of epileptic seizure.

Taken from our First aid leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer, or download the pdf using the link below.