First Aid for Convulsive Seizures

During a generalized tonic-clonic or grand mal seizure, the person suddenly falls to the ground and has a convulsive seizure. It is essential to protect the person from injury.

  • Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
  • Don’t hold the person down or try to stop their movements.
  • Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
  • Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
  • Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
  • Turn the person gently on their side to help keep the airway clear.
  • Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. A person having a seizure cannot swallow their tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure teeth or jaw.
  • Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
  • Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
  • Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if they seem confused or unable to get home.

First Aid for Non-Convulsive Seizures:

If a person has brief periods of staring, confusion or automatic behavior, the best thing to do is:

  • Watch the person carefully and explain to others what is happening. People who don’t recognize this behavior as a seizure may think the dazed person is intoxicated with drugs or alcohol.
  • Speak quietly and calmly in a friendly way.
  • Guide the person away from any danger, such as steps, a busy highway or a hot stove. Don’t grab or hold, however, unless some immediate danger threatens. People having this kind of seizure are on “automatic pilot” as far as their movements are concerned. They may struggle or lash out at the person who is trying to help them.
  • Stay with the person until consciousness returns and offer to help them find a safe way to return home.

Safety Issues for People with Seizures

Patients at risk of seizures must exercise special caution toward any activity that would create additional injury if a seizure were to occur. Common precautions include:

  • Avoid driving. Most states restrict driving entirely unless a person has been free of seizures for at least six months.
  • Avoid high places where one could fall.
  • Avoid heavy machinery and power tools that could be harmful.
  • Avoid swimming alone or without a lifeguard.
  • Avoid taking a bath without constant supervision. Some patients have a convulsive seizure and afterward, can drown in bath water. Showers are safe.

Pregnancy produces normal births in at least 90 percent of women with epilepsy. However, pregnancy should be planned and special precautions and monitoring may be required to have the best possible outcome.