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First Aid

How do you help during a seizure?

The most important thing you can do when you see a seizure take place is help the person as needed. Knowledge is power, and different types of seizures require different interventions. 

Someone having an absence seizure, for example, may need no help at all, yet someone having a Generalized Tonic Clonic Seizure will need you to proactively help to reduce injuries. Read below to learn more.

Common Seizure Symptoms

1.  Recognize Common Symptoms of a seizure which can include:

  • Blank Staring

  • Chewing

  • Fumbling with clothes

  • Wandering aimlessly

  • Shaking

  • Confused Speech – Not being able to directly answer your questions or talk.


2.  Provide First Aid in the following ways:

  • Time the seizure – You only need to call an ambulance in most cases if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, or another seizure quickly starts after the first one stops. Also time how long it takes for the person to recover and return to their usual activities. Most seizures usually last between 30 – 90 seconds.

  • Speak calmly to the person. They may not be able to respond to you. Just observe while the seizure takes place.

  • Do not grab or hold on to the person – let them move around as needed during the seizure.

  • Explain to others that the person is having a seizure.

  • Encourage others to move away as waking up to a crowd of people can be embarrassing for the person having the seizure.

  • Block any hazards – stop people from walking by them. If they are near stairs or a street and are walking, move them away.

  • Wait with them until they are fully conscious and aware. Make sure they know the date, where they are and where they are going next. Confusion may last longer than the actual seizure and may be hazardous, but the confusion is normal. Call for medical assistance if full awareness does not return.


How you respond to the seizure will model how others will respond to it. If you remain calm, then others around you will as well.

As the person comes out of the seizure, they may feel confused or embarrassed about what happened. Let them know they just had a seizure and they are safe. Offer to stay with them until they are ready to resume their normal activities.

What are the different types

of seizures and syndromes?

Generalized Tonic Clonic Seizures
(Grand Mal):

Generalized Tonic Clonic Seizures are divided into two parts – the Tonic Phase and the Clonic Phase.

During this type of seizure:

  • The person’s body stiffens and they lose consciousness, which causes them to fall to the ground.

  • Their eyes roll back into their head as their muscles contract and their back arches.

  • It may become harder for them to breathe.

  • Their lips and face may turn blue.

  • Then they will begin to make gargling noises.

  • Next the Clonic Phase begins and their muscles start to jerk repeatedly.

  • As the jerking stops, people having this type of seizure commonly let out a deep sigh, after which their normal breathing continues.

  • Once the seizure stops, they may still remain unconscious as their body goes through the postictal stage of the seizure. Their body may be sore and they may feel very tired or confused.

Provide Aid in the following ways:

​1.  Remain calm – you remaining calm helps others that witness the seizure remain calm as well.

  • Help them lie down if they feel a warning sensation (aura) that a seizure is about to take place. Some people know ahead of time, others do not.

  • Time the seizure.

  • Check for an epilepsy or seizure ID bracelet.

  • Remove any dangerous objects around them. Chairs, tables, anything sharp could hurt them during the seizure.

  • Turn the person on his side – this will help unblock their airway.

  • Cushion their head – put something soft underneath it.

2.  Stay with them until the seizure ends.
Do not put anything in their mouth. Swallowing their tongue is not possible. If you do put something in their mouth, you could hurt both you and the person having the seizure.

3.  Do not hold them down. This could hurt the person as well.

4.  Incontinence or injury could occur. They may have no control over their bladder during a seizure, so please be understanding.

5.  After the seizure, they may experience what is called the postictal stage of the seizure. This is the recovery stage of the seizure, and people with epilepsy may not be "back to normal" immediately after the seizure - as many people new to seizures tend to expect.


During this time, the person may feel confused, agitated, or exhausted. They may not be able to talk or answer your questions immediately. They may have to go to sleep for an extended period of time for their body to recover.

6.  They also may not remember what happened during the seizure.

Did You Know?

Epilepsy is a disease where a person experiences recurring seizures...

More people are diagnosed with Epilepsy than Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease COMBINED.

A seizure is an event and epilepsy is the disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.

Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

A seizure threshold is a person's likelihood to have a seizure. ​

The higher the threshold, the less likely it is that a seizure will happen.

What are the Stages of a Seizure?

The parts of a seizure is something we need the general population to better understand. What you can visually observe as a seizure isn’t the only part of a seizure. A seizure is made up of 4 Stages. Not everyone experiences all of the stages, as it depends on a variety of factors. Some people may just experience the seizure (Ictal stage) and the postictal stage. Others may experience the aura and the ictal stage. It all depends on the type of seizure the person is experiencing, and where in the brain the seizure is taking place.

  • Stage 1: Prodrome – When a person with epilepsy can tell that seizure is going to be happening in the near future. The prodrome can be signaled or felt based on subtle changes that are happening to them. These changes can include changes in mood, sleep, feeling anxious, feeling lightheaded, or having a difficult time staying focused on whatever they are doing. This is not considered to be a part of the actual seizure, as it can occur hours before the actual seizure.

  • Stage 2: Preictal Stage – Aura – A indescribable feeling right before the seizure takes place. What a person experiences can be determined by where in the brain the seizure is taking place.

  • Stage 3: Ictal Stage – This is the actual seizure, and the part that others can witness. What happens during the seizure, or the type of seizure, is also determined by where in the brain the seizure is taking place. That is why, after making sure the person is safe, videoing the seizure to show your neurologist or epileptologist is so important. Check out the Types of Seizure Page to learn more.

  • Stage 4: Postictal Stage – This is how the person is feeling after the seizure. It may take the person a little while to get back to normal, as they just had “an electrical storm” occur in their brain.

They could be tired, nauseous, confused and irritable. They can feel numbness or partial paralysis. They may need to go to sleep for an extended period of time.

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