First Aid for Eilepsy Seizures :You Must Want To Know?

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What to do when someone has a seizure

Cymraeg

On this page, find out what to do if you see someone having a tonic-clonic or focal seizure. We explain how you can help, and when you should call for an ambulance.

Tonic-clonic (convulsive) seizures

Tonic-clonic seizures are the type of seizure most people recognise. They used to be called grand mal seizures. Someone having a tonic-clonic seizure goes stiff, loses consciousness, falls to the floor and begins to jerk or convulse. They may go blue around the mouth due to irregular breathing. Sometimes they may lose control of their bladder or bowels, and bite their tongue or the inside of their mouth.

Here’s how to help if you see someone having a tonic-clonic seizure.

Do:

  • Protect them from injury (remove harmful objects from nearby)
  • Cushion their head
  • Look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery – it may give you information about their seizures and what to do
  • Time how long the jerking lasts
  • Aid breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position once the jerking has stopped (see picture)
  • Stay with the them until they are fully recovered
  • Be calmly reassuring

The recovery position

Don’t:

  • Restrain their movements
  • Put anything in their mouth
  • Try to move them unless they are in danger
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

Call for an ambulance if:

  • You know it is their first seizure or
  • The jerking continues for more than five minutes or
  • They have one tonic-clonic seizure after another without regaining consciousness between seizures or
  • They are injured during the seizure or
  • You believe they need urgent medical attention

Focal seizures

You may also hear this type of seizure called a partial seizure. Someone having a focal seizure may not be aware of their surroundings or what they are doing. They may have unusual movements and behaviour such as plucking at their clothes, smacking their lips, swallowing repeatedly or wandering around.

Here’s how to help if you see someone having a focal seizure.

Do:

  • Guide them away from danger (such as roads or open water)
  • Stay with them until recovery is complete
  • Be calmly reassuring
  • Explain anything that they may have missed

Don’t:

  • Restrain them
  • Act in a way that could frighten them, such as making abrupt movements or shouting at them
  • Assume they are aware of what is happening, or what has happened
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

Call for an ambulance if:

  • You know it is their first seizure or
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes or
  • They are injured during the seizure or
  • You believe they need urgent medical attention

Seizures in a wheelchair

If a person with epilepsy uses a wheelchair or has mobility problems, their GP or epilepsy specialist should give them a care plan. This should include advice on how to help the person if they have a seizure.

Here is some general advice about how to help someone who is having a seizure in a wheelchair.

Do:

  • Put the brakes on, to stop the chair from moving
  • Let them remain seated in the chair during the seizure (unless they have a care plan which says to move them). Moving them could possibly lead to injuries for both you and them
  • If they have a seatbelt or harness on, leave it fastened
  • If they don’t have a seatbelt or harness, support them gently, so they don’t fall out of the chair
  • Cushion their head and support it gently. A head rest, cushion or rolled up coat can be helpful

The person’s care plan should give advice on what to do after the seizure has finished. For example, it should say if it is safe to move them from the wheelchair to put them in the recovery position.

Don’t:

  • Restrain their movements
  • Put anything in their mouth
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

Seizures in the water

Visit our sports and leisure page to find out what to do if someone has a seizure while swimming.

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