5 Things To Know About Seizure First Aid

What to Do When Someone Has an Epileptic Seizure

As a person with epilepsy, I am often asked, "What do I do if you have a seizure?" Watching a friend, loved one or colleague have an epileptic seizure can be extremely stressful. I've found a little bit of information goes a long way toward decreasing anxiety and diminishing stigma associated with epilepsy. Here are 5 things to remember when someone has a seizure.

Stay Calm

Seizure First Aid
Jessica K Smith

It is likely the person having the seizure is unconscious or at least cannot communicate with you. It is also likely the situation will come on suddenly in an undesirable situation. My favorite was when I had a grand mal in a conference room full of colleagues. That's why it is really important to remain calm. Staying calm will help you, the person having the seizure and anyone who may be in the area.

Clear a Space

Sunset on the tarmac
Jessica K. Smith

Some seizures cause a person (like me) to thrash about while others seizures are brief and just look like a staring spell. You can minimize the injuries to the person by clearing the area. For example, when I had my grand mal in the conference room, that conference table left some pretty nasty bruises on my arms and legs. Additionally, if the person is having a grand mal seizure it helps to turn the person on their side.

Check for ID

Medical ID by Jessica K Smith
Jessica K Smith

If you come upon a stranger or friend you didn't know had epilepsy, it is important to look for an ID. This could be in the form of a bracelet, a necklace, a wallet card or even a keychain. Some people living with epilepsy who have uncontrolled seizures will include the following information:

  • Types of seizures they have
  • Types of medicine they take
  • Emergency contact name and number
  • Their own name

Call if Necessary

Phone by Jessica K Smith
Jessica K. Smith

It is not always necessary to call 911 when a person has a seizure. In a work or school situation, it is fine to call even if the person doesn't need it. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, if a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes there is the risk of a seizure progressing to what is called status epilepticus which can be life threatening. It is important to keep track of the time as the seizure progresses. If the person is at home or with loved ones who are familiar with the seizure pattern it may not be necessary to call 911.


As the person wakes from the seizure they will be confused. They may even be in what is called a post-ictal state. It can take a few minutes for the person to become re-oriented to where they are, what day it is and who you are. This is extremely stressful and frustrating. It will help to:

  • Speak in a quiet voice
  • Remind the person where you are
  • Remind the person why you are there
  • Remind the person who you are
  • Let the person know what happened

Any comfort you can offer the person will be welcome.

The Best First Aid

The best thing you can do is be a friend to the person having a seizure. Just imagine what it might feel like to wake up on the floor of a conference room with people hovering over you and no idea where you are. Fantastic, right? Now, if all you do is calm yourself and the people around you down you have made a huge difference. Just try to remember the 5 "C's": calm, clear, check, call and comfort.

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