First Aid

Seizures: What to do and what not to do


Simple Partial Seizures

 This type of seizure can affect movement, breathing, heart rate, sight, smell, hearing, taste or a combination of any or all these things.The person experiencing the seizure is fully aware of what is occurring but has no control over what is happening. 

 What to do:


  • Stay and offer reassurance until the episode has passed.


  • Sometimes a partial seizures acts as a warning that further seizure activity is imminent. Should this be the case further assistance may be required i.e. move to a safer quieter environment.


Complex partial seizure:

 These seizures can cause a person to experience strange sensations. This type of seizure affects behaviour, the person may act in an inappropriate manner and or display unusual mannerisms such as moving around in a slow exaggerated or the opposite extreme. They may begin pulling at clothing or making odd noises. In contrast to partial seizures consciousness is always affected in some way.

 What to do:


  • Try to ensure immediate environment is safe.


  • Avoid unnecessary interference.


  • Always allow seizure to run it's natural course.


  • Stay calm and speak quietly and calmly.


 Absence Seizures (Petit Mal)

 Brief loss of consciousness or concentration can be a sign of absence seizures, these seizure types can be mistaken for daydreaming so investigation may be necessary if this occurs frequently. Other signs can be staring into space, glazed expressions or motionlessness. Recovery is usually quite rapid with no memory of the episode.

 What to do


  • If absence occurs at school ensure child has not missed anything in the lesson.


  • Relay details of seizure to those concerned whilst always appreciating confidentiality.


Tonic Clonic Seizures (Grand Mal)

This is a link to a video of an individual experiencing a tonic/clonic seizure and some people may find it upsetting.


This is the seizure that most people recognise as epilepsy. The person will fall to the ground and lose all conciousness. This will be followed by stiffening (the tonic phase) and then jerking (the clonic phase). Breathing may become irregular and as a result the person could turn slightly blue. The person may also make grunting noises, bite their tongue or cheek, or be incontinent. After a couple of minutes the jerking normally stops and the person will slowly regain consciousness. They may feel groggy, sleepy and confused for some time afterwards and have a headache or aching limbs. How long it takes to feel ok again varies from person to person.

What to do


  • Remain calm, time the seizure activity, watch breathing and try to keep the head protected.


  • Try to make the immediate environment as safe as possible.


  • Loosen tight clothing.


  • Let the seizure run it's course, be alert to anything that may need urgent medical attention.


  • Use recovery position once the seizure starts to subside.


  • Reassure the person and relay details of the seizure to those concerned respecting confidentiality.


What NOT to do


  • Never try to move the person during the seizure, unless there is imminent risk of serious injury.


  • Never try to interfere with the progress of seizure.


  • Never put anything in the persons mouth.


  • Never leave the person alone during seizure.



There is no need to call an ambulance unless:


  • There is no history of seizures.


  • The seizures are recurrent.


  • The Tonic/clonic stages last longer than 5 minutes.


  • If the person stops breathing, hold your breath until you can hold it no longer. If the person still isn't breathing dial 999


  • There has been more than 3 seizures in a 24 hour period.


  • There is serious injury.


This information concurs with current accepted first aid procedures for assisting a person suffering with epilepsy.

If you are unsure how to put someone in

recovery position click here