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.

Step 1. Protect the head

  • Help the victim to the floor if he or she starts losing muscle control. Turn the person on his or her side for better breathing and to prevent choking and aspiration.

  • 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. Don't try to hold the person's tongue.

  • Remove eyeglasses.

Step 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.

Step 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. 

Step 4. Call 911

  • If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes. 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, has diabetes, or heart disease

  • If the victim has no history of seizures

  • If the person has sustained an injury during the seizure.