What Do I Do If I See Someone Having a Seizure?

Please Don't Panic and Remain Calm

Absence seizure. Credit: Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Do you know what to do when someone has a seizure? It may be your friend, your coworker, or a family member you see having a seizure. Knowing a little seizure first aid may greatly help someone having a seizure - it may even save their life. A seizure consists of disorganized, electrical discharges of the brain and has multiple causes. If someone has several seizures, their doctor may diagnose them epilepsy.

Managing these seizures requires long-term medical treatment. It is essential to know when an individual has a seizure and what to look for. Experiencing a seizure can be a scary experience for the person experiencing them – as well as the people observing it. Knowing what to do can help the seizure victim to avoid hurting himself or herself during the seizure.

What Does a Seizure Look Like?

Some seizures will appear differently from others, so it will depend upon the seizure disorder how the seizures will appear.

Although this list is not inclusive, here are some common symptoms seen if someone has a seizure, such as:

  • alteration or absence of consciousness
  • lip smacking
  • involuntary muscle contraction the entire body, followed by relaxation
  • tongue biting due to contraction of jaw muscle
  • difficulty of breathing and secretion of saliva from the mouth.

You may have a loved one or someone you work with who experiences seizures.

Even if it is not someone you know, there could be a chance that you are in a public place and you witness a seizure. Witnessing a seizure can be frightening, but there are some things you can do to help the person experiencing the seizure:

  • Do not panic and be calm.
  • Do not attempt move the person having seizure to another location, since this may injury you, the person having the seizure, or other bystanders.
  • Do not leave the person having the seizure. Stay with them until the seizure stops.
  • Look for bracelet tag and contact information for contact information or verification that the individual has epilepsy.
  • Protect the individual from any kind of injury. You can do this by moving chairs or other hard objects away from the person.
  • Do not attempt to open the mouth and put anything in the mouth, since this could pose as a choking hazard or you could injure yourself.
  • Gently put a soft pillow under the head to prevent injury to the head during the seizure.
  • Carefully and gently turn the individual to their side and allow any fluid to come out of the mouth
  • Do not attempt to give anything to drink or eat while the person is having a seizure.
  • Seizures usually last for a short period of time (1-2 minutes). If a seizure lasts longer than about five minutes, you should call an ambulance immediately.

How Common Are Epilepsy and Seizures?

Epilepsy and seizures can occur in any person at any age. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 1 of 26 people develop seizures during the course of a lifetime.

Furthermore, about 1 of 100 Americans have been diagnosed with epilepsy or had a single unprovoked seizure. Of note, epilepsy refers to recurrent seizures, or seizures that keep on happening.


O’Hara KA. First Aid for Seizures: The Importance of Education and Appropriate Response. J Child Neurol 2007; 22; 30S.


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