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

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Updated April 16, 2014

Whether you know a loved one with epilepsy, or perhaps know a co-worker or an acquaintance with it, there might be a chance that you witness a seizure. While it is a scary experience to have a seizure, it can be just as frightening to witness one –- especially if you do not know what to do. These are some helpful tips you can use to help assist someone who is having a convulsive seizure. By knowing what to do, you can help prevent injury to the person having the seizure as well as reassure others who don’t know what to do.
  • If you see somebody begin to have a seizure, do not panic. You can be a great asset to him or her by preventing them from injuring themself during a seizure.
  • If the individual is sitting upright in a chair when the seizure begins, gently guide him or her to the floor or try to prevent them from falling. Head injuries are common in individuals having a seizure and usually result from the fall at the onset of the seizures.
  • Remove all heavy objects away from the individual having the seizure so that he does not injure himself. This includes tables, chairs, or any other hard structures. You might place something soft, like a jacket or blanket, beneath the person's head to prevent head injuries.
  • If possible, place the individual in the lateral position (on their side). While it may be helpful to loosen belts or ties while the individual is having the seizure to help them breathe easier, never hold somebody down during his seizure. Let the seizure take its course.
  • Many people worry about the individual swallowing or biting their tongue during the seizure. While this may be of concern, never place your fingers in someone’s mouth during their seizure. Not only could this harm the individual by causing injury to their jaw or obstructing their airway, you could also be injured by getting your hand bitten.
  • After an individual has had a seizure, it is common for them to be unconscious for a short period of time. If you know that this individual has epilepsy, you do not need to call 911. However, if the individual is not breathing after their seizure, is having a seizure that lasts greater than two minutes, has severely injured themselves, or is having their first seizure, you will need to call emergency personnel. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is rarely needed after a seizure, unless the person experiences cardiopulmonary arrest. In this case, once the seizure has stopped, check the individual's pulse and make sure that they are breathing. If you do not see a pulse or breathing after a minute, you should begin CPR. While CPR can save lives, there is also some risk of injury to the individual.
  • When the individual has woken up from their seizure, he may be disoriented and may not know what happened. Reassure them that everything is OK and let them know what has happened. It is important to make sure that injuries, if any, are addressed.

Source:

O'Hara KA. First aid for seizures: the importance of education and appropriate response. J Child Neurol. 22(5 Suppl):30S-7S.

Hayes C. Clinical skills: practical guide for managing adults with epilepsy. Br J Nurs.13(7):380-7.

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