First Aid: Seizures

A seizure results from a sudden rush of abnormal electrical signals in the brain. Symptoms may range from a minor daze to uncontrollable muscle spasms (convulsions). In many cases, the victim will lose consciousness. A seizure can be caused by a high fever, head injury, drug reaction, or condition such as epilepsy.

1. Protect the head

  • Help the victim to the floor if he or she begins losing muscle control. Turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking.

  • Protect the victim's head from injury by placing something soft, such as folded clothes, beneath it, and by moving objects away from the victim.

  • Don't cause injury by restraining the person or by placing anything in his or her mouth.

  • Remove eyeglasses.

2.  Preserve dignity

  • Clear away bystanders.

  • Reassure the victim, who may be confused, drowsy, or hostile when coming out of the seizure.

  • Cover the person or provide dry clothes if muscle spasms have caused a loss of bladder control.

3. Check for injury

  • Make sure the victim's mental state has returned to normal. One way to do this is to ask the person his or her name, the year, and your location.

  • Injuries can occur to the head, mouth, tongue, or body. 

4. Call 911

  • If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes (Note: Timing the seizure and recovery time is helpful in many cases.)

  • If a second seizure occurs

  • If the victim doesn’t regain consciousness

  • If the victim is pregnant

  • If the victim has no history of seizures

  • If the person has sustained an injury during the seizure. (Note: If the injury is not severe or life threatening, it may be more appropriate to seek treatment with the primary care provider.)