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How Can I Help Someone Who Is Having an Epileptic Seizure?

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Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Seizures vary in their severity.

Sometimes the person having the seizure goes into a kind of altered state for a short period of time. The person may looked dazed or stare into space. In such a case, it is enough to stay by the person and wait for the seizure to pass. The most important thing is to be calm.

More severe seizures may require more direct action.

How To Information: If You Witness a Seizure

  • You cannot stop a seizure, so do not try.
  • Do not shake or hold the person who is having the seizure.
  • Do not put anything in the person's mouth, not even medicine. People do not swallow their tongues during seizures. Trying to give medicine, however, may cause choking.
  • Do place something soft, such as a pillow or a rolled up coat, under the person's head. This action will help protect the head from injury.
  • Do try rolling the person on his or her side to keep the airways clear.
  • Do loosen ties or shirt collars.
  • Remove any nearby hazards, such as knives or hot beverages.
  • When the person regains consciousness, he or she may be dazed or tired. Stay calm, be reassuring, and stay beside the person until he or she feels better again.
  • If the seizure lasts less than five minutes, ask about a hospital evaluation.

Call 911 if:

  • The person having the seizure is pregnant, injured, or diabetic.
  • The seizure happens in water.
  • The seizure lasts more than five minutes.
  • A second seizure begins before the person regains consciousness.
  • The person does not begin breathing normally and does not return to consciousness after the seizure stops.
  • This is a first seizure.






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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.