First Aid

First Aid for Convulsive Seizures

When providing seizure first aid for generalized tonic clonic (formerly, “grand mal”) seizures, there are the key things to remember:

  • Keep calm and gently reassure other people who may be in close proximity.
  • Don’t physically hold the person down (or try to stop his movements).
  • Time the duration of the seizure with your watch or cell phone.
  • Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
  • Loosen ties (or anything around the neck) that may make breathing more difficult.
  • Put something flat and soft (such as a folded jacket) under their head.
  • Turn a seizing person onto their side, which will help keep the airways clear.
  • Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. A person having a seizure CANNOT swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure their 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 she seems confused or unable to get home by herself.

First Aid for Non-Convulsive Seizures

You needn’t feel obligated to do anything if a person has brief periods of staring or shaking of the limbs. If someone has the kind of seizure that produces a state of daze or confusion, the best strategy is to:

  • Watch the person carefully and explain to others what is happening. Often people who don’t recognize this kind of behavior suspect that the seizing person is drunk (or on drugs).
  • Speak quietly and calmly in a friendly way.
  • Guide the person away from any danger, such as a steep flight of steps, a busy highway, or a hot stove. Don’t grab a hold of them, however, unless there is a danger of immediate threat to their safety. People experiencing his kind of seizure are on “automatic pilot” (so far as their movements are concerned). Therefore, an internal instinct may make them struggle or lash out at the person who is trying to hold them.
  • Stay with the person until full consciousness returns, and offer help in arranging their transport back to a residence.

When to Call for an Ambulance

  • The seizure takes place in water.
  • There’s no medical I.D., and no way of knowing the nature of the seizure.
  • The person is pregnant, injured, or diabetic.
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes.
  • Another seizure begins shortly after the first has ended.
  • Consciousness does not start to return after the shaking has ended.

If the ambulance arrives after consciousness has returned, the person who experienced the seizure should be asked if the seizure was associated with epilepsy, and whether or not actual emergency room care is desired.

When these conditions exist, immediate medical attention is necessary:

  • Diabetes
  • Brain infections
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Pregnancy
  • Poisoning
  • Hypoglycemia
  • High fever
  • Head injury