How to Help Someone Who Is Having a Seizure

When someone is having is seizure, they will often experience involuntary movement, changes in behavior, and awareness for lasting a couple minutes to an hour. If you've never witnessed a seizure, you might be shocked, confused, scared, worried, or all of the above. The most important thing, however, is for you to remain calm.


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    Know the circumstances under which you should call for emergency medical services. If you are concerned for the person's safety and feel unable to help the person, you should call for emergency medical attention, but in many cases, a person having a seizure will not need emergency assistance. Often, a person will have medication with them. Ask when you can. This is helpful and can be useful to them right away. Get emergency assistance if:[1]
    • The person doesn't have a MedicAlert necklace or bracelet that says "epilepsy" or "seizure".
    • The seizure occurred in water.
    • A seizure occurs after the person complains of a sudden, severe headache or if it follows a head injury[2]
    • A seizure occurs after inhaling fumes or poison[3]
    • A seizure occurs with other signs of stroke, such as trouble speaking or understanding speech, loss of vision, and inability to move part or all of one side of the body.[4]
    • They are pregnant, hurt, or have a necklace or bracelet that says "diabetic". [5]
    • The seizure lasts more than 3 minutes[6]
    • A second seizure starts shortly after the first one stops, or if the person has already had a seizure in the past 24 hours.[7]
    • The person stops breathing for more than 30 seconds [8]
    • An hour after the seizure stops, the person does not respond normally or suffers from reduced awareness, drowsiness, confusion, nausea or vomiting, fever, or an inability to walk/stand.[9]
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    Become familiar with different kinds of seizures. The key to recognizing if a person is having a seizure, and knowing what to do, is to be prepared.[10]
    • Partial seizures affect only part of the brain.
      • Simple partial seizures (SPS). The person is awake and aware of what's happening; there could be twitching of one limb, unusual smell or taste, a strange feeling (like "pins and needles") or a sudden intense feeling of fear or joy. The person will usually need gentle reassurance.[11]
      • Complex partial seizures (CPS). Consciousness is affected, and the person might wander around, behave strangely, and seem confused. It can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Don't restrain them, gently guide them away from any dangerous situations (like a busy road), and speak quietly and calmly until they are reoriented. [12]
    • Primary generalized seizures are seizures that occur due to a broad electrical discharge in the brain that involves both sides simultaneously [13]
      • Absence or petit mal seizures. The person may look blank and cease to respond to what's going on around them. Stay with them and guide them away from dangerous situations. [14]
      • Tonic and Atonic seizures. In a tonic seizure, the person's muscles suddenly get stiff and if they're standing, they might fall backwards. [15] In an atonic seizure, the person's muscles will suddenly relax and they get "floppy" -- they'll often fall forward instead of backwards. Both seizures are brief and sudden, and the person tends to recover quickly. [16]
      • Myoclonic seizures are when a person's limb (or part of their limb) starts jerking. These seizures are brief, and they often happen shortly after waking up. They can happen in clusters. [17]
      • Tonic clonic (convulsive) or grand mal seizures. The person falls to the ground and makes shaking or jerking movements. Their breathing is affected, they may go blue, and they may bite their tongue. Emergency services should be called as a long grand mal seizure may be life threatening, and may be the first symptom of a severe neurological disorder if the patient does not have epilepsy.[18]
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    Ease the person to the floor so they don't fall. If possible, roll the person onto their side, so that if they vomit, they don't choke on or inhale it.[19] (It is best to roll them onto their left side, however, do not become flustered if you forget this; either side is better than leaving them on their back.)
    • Whatever you do, don't ever restrain a person having a seizure, even if they are moving violently. Instead, move any objects that could injure them away from them.[20]
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    Make sure the person is breathing. If their breathing is difficult, check that nothing is blocking their airway, like food.[10] Otherwise, do not insert anything into the person's mouth.
    • Although some sources recommend putting a handkerchief or any rolled up fabric between the teeth so that the person doesn't bite his or her tongue, the prevailing advice is that you may do more harm than good by trying to put something (even water, pills, or food) in their mouth.
    • You should never place any items into a person's mouth while they are having a seizure since an object may block their airway if dislodged, becoming life-threatening.
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    Help prevent them from hurting themselves.
    • In grand mal seizures, the person can hit their head against the floor repeatedly. If their head is striking the floor, or some object that you cannot move, you may cushion their head gently with a pillow, cushion, jacket, or any soft object, but do not restrain their head or any other part of their body.[21]
    • Loosen any constrictive clothing unless they're jerking too much (ties, belts, shirt collars). If the person is wearing a necklace, unhook it if you can.
    • A cold wet cloth on the forehead may help. If the person is wearing a hair clip, remove it.
    • Move furniture and other obstacles out of the way -- anything that they might bump into, or that might fall onto them. Keep an eye out for sharp cornered items, or things that will shatter into sharp edges when broken.
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    Check for any kind of ID card or medical jewelry. There might be some information on it that will help you help them.
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    Monitor the person's condition until they regain consciousness.
    • It will be nice for the victim to get privacy -- urge people to move on and stop staring; close the door. This is for the safety of the onlookers, as well as to keep the person having the seizure from feeling embarrassed, vulnerable, or confused.
    • The person might have wet themselves; if so, try to hide this to spare any embarrassment.
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    Put the person in the recovery position. Presuming they're on their back and you're at their side:[10]
    • Put the arm that's closest to you at a right angle to their body, with the palm facing upwards.
    • Lift the other arm across their body and put the back of their hand against their cheek; hold it there.
    • Lift the knee that's furthest from you so that their leg is bent and their foot is flat on the floor.
    • Pull the bent knee towards you, and the person's body should roll onto their side, keeping your hand against their cheek. The knee should remain bent so that the leg is at a right angle to their body.
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    Write down any details as soon as you get the chance. This can be extremely valuable to the person who had the seizure, as well as to their doctor.[10][1]
    • Part of the body the seizure started in
    • Parts of the body affected
    • Warning signs before the seizure
    • Length of the seizure
    • What was the person was doing before and after the seizure?
    • Did their mood change?
    • Were there any triggers, like tiredness, hunger, or feeling queasy?
    • Were there any unusual sensations they spoke of?
    • What made you notice that they were having a seizure -- a noise? Did they fall? Did their eyes roll? If they fell, did they fall forward, backward, or in some other way?
    • Did the person appear "blank" before or during the seizure?
    • Did they do anything unusual, like mumble or fiddle with their clothing?
    • Did their appearance change, like the color of their face, lips, hands?
    • Did their breathing change in any way?
    • If at school call parents immediately after it happens.
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    When they come to, stay with them for at least 20 minutes. Reassure them that they are safe. Take the person to a doctor or emergency room if they sustained any injuries during the seizure.


  • A partial seizure can develop into a generalized seizure, and sometimes the person is aware of it coming. If so, help them get safe before it happens.
  • After seizure, have the person rest. Seizures can be violent and very painful so don't assume they're ready to carry on as usual once the seizure stops.
  • Do not restrain them. This can cause injury to the victim and/or yourself.
  • Never leave that person behind. Leaving it without assistance would cause issues.
  • After a seizure stops, people usually don't remember what happened so, try to keep them calm and provide further help. Any undo stress may cause them to have another seizure and that may lead to severe consequences.
  • Put something under them, like a pillow.


  • A person can have multiple seizures, one after the other, without recovering in between. If this lasts for more than 30 minutes, it's called a status epilepticus, or just status. If this happens, the person may need to see a doctor about it, but if they have status in a tonic clonic seizure, this is a medical emergency and you should immediately call for help (don't wait 30 minutes).[10]

Sources and Citations

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