How to Help Someone Having a Seizure
Please note that this information does not qualify you as an official first aider, and Virtual College advise calling 999 in the first instance at the scene of an emergency.
This material and any associated assessments do not constitute a qualification or accreditation as an official first aider. All content provided is for general information only.
Virtual College advocate dialling the emergency services before attempting any form of first aid.
Helping Someone Who Is Having a Seizure
Seizures can be one of the most visually concerning medical situations that a first aider might come across, but they can in fact range from being severe to fairly mild. In this article, we’re going to look at how you can recognise a seizure happening, what you should do to help the person, and when you should call for an ambulance.
You may find our course on the Primary Survey a useful addition to the information in this article. Click here to find out more about this course, and how it can help you and other employees in the workplace approach first aid situations in the proper way.
How to Recognise a Seizure
There is more than one type of seizure to be aware of. A tonic-clonic, or convulsive seizure (previously known as a grand mal seizure) is the most commonly encountered and recognised, and will involve a period of muscle contractions and stiffness, followed by shaking or convulsions. There are however numerous other potential symptoms, which can include loss of consciousness, confusion, auditory and visual hallucinations and more.
It helps to be able to understand all of the potential symptoms and types of seizure to be able to recognise one occurring. To find out more about epileptic seizures and what causes them, along with the different types of seizure that you might encounter, then please read our article on the subject here.
How to Help
There are several things that you can do, and several things you shouldn’t do, in order to make the situation as safe as possible for the person experiencing the seizure. First aid for seizures generally means making the situation safe rather than directly treating the person. Actions include the following
- Do whatever you can to protect the person from injury whilst they are experiencing the seizure. This might include moving objects from around them, particularly if they are convulsing.
- Cushion their head if possible, as this will help to prevent injury.
- Take mental notes on the length of the seizure, and exactly what happened. This will be extremely useful for any medical professional.
- Try to restrain the person in any way if they are convulsing.
- Try to move them in any way, unless they are in serious danger of further injury.
- Give them anything to eat or drink until you are sure that they are fully recovered, as this will increase their risk of choking.
- Put your fingers or anything else inside their mouth.
- Attempt to bring them out of the seizure in any way, or encourage them to regain consciousness.
If a person is having a focal seizure, whereby they do not lose consciousness or suffer from full-body convulsions or muscle relaxation, then your primary aim is to guide them away from any danger. Try and keep them aware of what’s going on, as confusion is very common.
What to Do After a Seizure
There are some additional steps you should take once the seizure has subsided to help the person recover. They include the following:
- Place the person into the recovery position to help their breathing, as this can sometimes be made difficult by certain types of seizure. To find out how to do this, please read our article on the recovery position here.
- Stay with the person, and talk to reassure them. Preventing further stress and panic will help breathing return to normal.
- Check the person for any injuries that they may have sustained while they were having the seizure. This can include everything from minor bruising to more severe injuries sustained as a result of falling.
When to Call an Ambulance
While seizures can be commonplace for certain medical conditions, there are many situations in which it is appropriate to call for emergency medical help. They include the following
- If you believe this to be the person’s first seizure, then it is important that they are seen to by a professional to established why it happened and how it might be prevented in future.
- If the person has sustained injuries, potentially as a result of falling, then they should be taken to accident and emergency, or an ambulance should be called if the injuries are severe.
- If convulsions continue for more than five minutes, or the person simply keeps having seizures one after another, then you should call 999 straight away, as the situation could be severe.
For information about all of the Health and Safety courses that Virtual College offers, please visit our dedicated health and safety courses section, which explains how we can help you and your fellow employees deal with medical situations in the workplace.