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What To Do If You See Someone Having An Epileptic Seizure

Tonic-Clonic seizures

The person goes stiff, loses consciousness and then falls to the ground. This is followed by jerking movements. A blue tinge around the mouth is likely. This is due to irregular breathing. Loss of bladder and/or bowel control may happen. After a minute or two the jerking movements should stop and consciousness may slowly return.

Do...

  • Protect the person from injury - (remove harmful objects from nearby)
  • Cushion their head
  • Look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery
  • Aid breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position once the seizure has finished (see pictures)
  • Stay with the person until recovery is complete
  • Be calmly reassuring

Don't...

  • Restrain the person’s movements
  • Put anything in the person’s 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 the person’s first seizure, or
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes, or
  • One tonic-clonic seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness between seizures, or
  • The person is injured during the seizure, or
  • You believe the person needs urgent medical attention

Focal (partial) seizures

Sometimes the person may not be aware of their surroundings or what they are doing. They may pluck at their clothes, smack their lips, swallow repeatedly, and wander around.

Do...

  • Guide the person from danger
  • Stay with the person until recovery is complete
  • Be calmly reassuring
  • Explain anything that they may have missed

Don't...

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

Call for an ambulance if...

  • You know it is the person's first seizure
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes
  • The person is injured during the seizure
  • You believe the person needs urgent medical attention

First aid for people who use a wheelchair

If you use a wheelchair, or you have other mobility problems, speak to your GP or epilepsy specialist. They should give you a care plan, which includes advice on how people should help you if you have a seizure.

Here are some general first aid guidelines for people who have a seizure in a wheelchair.

Do...

  • Put the brakes on, to stop the chair from moving
  • Allow the person to remain seated in the chair during the seizure (unless they have a care plan which says to move them). Moving the person could possibly lead to injuries for the person having the seizure and the carer
  • If the person has a seatbelt or harness on, leave it fastened
  • if the person doesn’t have a seatbelt or harness, support them gently, so they don’t fall out of the chair
  • Cushion the person’s 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, whether it is safe to move the person from the chair to put them in the recovery position.

Don't...

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

Reproduced from the Epilepsy Action website.  For more information please visit www.epilepsy.org.uk

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