Epilepsy Facts – First Aid
IF A SEIZURE OCCURS….
Tonic-Clonic (“Grand Mal”)
If you’re trying to help a person who is having a tonic-clonic seizure, the following procedures are recommended:
- If you or the person with epilepsy senses an impending seizure early enough, you may be able to help the person lie on the ground.
- Don’t try to restrain the person. The seizure must run its course; it cannot be stopped once it has begun.
- Clear the area particularly remove hard or dangerous objects to avoid injury. Cushion the person’s head to avoid striking the floor or sidewalk.
- If the person is wearing glasses, remove them.
- Loosen clothing in the neck and head area.
- Turn the person on the side to allow saliva to drain from the mouth.
- Do NOT place any hard object in the mouth or between the teeth. (It could cause choking or damage to the mouth or teeth.)
- When the person regains consciousness and the seizure ends, help find a place for the person to rest and become reoriented.
Most people recover spontaneously. Thus, it’s usually unnecessary to call a physician unless the person is not known to have tonic-clonic seizures or if injury occurs. However, if the seizure lasts more than five minutes, or if one seizure follows another without a return of consciousness, immediate medical help should be sought.
Absence (“Petit Mal”)
Since this is only a momentary loss of consciousness and the chances of injury are remote, no help is necessary.
Complex-Partial (“Temporal Lobe” or “Psychomotor”)
Generally, there’s little you can or should do other than avoid restraining and calmly and reassuringly help protect the person having the seizure from accidental injury. When consciousness is regained, you may help the person get reoriented.
Download our Seizure Action Plan below. This is important information for parents to share with anyone who spends a significant amount of time with their child, such as a School Nurse. Parents should ask their neurologist to help them complete the plan. This file is in English and in Spanish.