Epilepsy Coping Responding

Watching someone have a seizure can be a frightening experience when you don’t know how to react or how to help. By educating yourself on what to do during a seizure, you can help the person having a seizure, and keep them from hurting themselves.

Responding to Seizures (Non-Convulsive)

Not all seizures involve convulsions; some people have seizure symptoms that include:

  • Experiencing strange sensations (i.e. sounds sights, sounds and feelings)
  • Muscle twitching or loss of muscle control
  • Odd, repetitive behavior (i.e. lip smacking or picking a clothing)
  • Staring off into space
  • Wandering aimlessly.

If someone is having a seizure and they exhibit one or more of the above seizure symptoms, you should:

  • Remain calm
  • Make sure he isn’t in any danger (and if so, gently guide him to a safe area)
  • Watch him carefully and time the seizure (this information may be important to his medical treatment)
  • Stay with him and offer reassurance the seizure is over (this is especially important with children).

When responding to seizures, you should not:

  • Give the individual something to eat or drink during the seizure
  • Restrain the individual
  • Shout or threaten the individual.

Responding to Seizures (Convulsive)

During a generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure, an individual may:

  • Lose consciousness
  • Become rigid
  • Shake uncontrollably
  • Lose bladder control or vomit.

If an individual is having a seizure and she exhibits these seizure symptoms, it’s important to:

  • Stay calm
  • Make sure the area is free from hard or sharp objects
  • Put something soft under her head
  • Watch her carefully and time the seizure
  • Turn her gently onto her side after the jerking stops (or immediately after vomiting)
  • Loosen any tight clothing around her neck
  • Stay with her and offer reassurance after the seizure is over.

It’s important that you do not:

  • Move her unless she is in danger
  • Perform CPR (unless she stops breathing after the seizure has stopped)
  • Put a spoon or any other object in her mouth (it’s physically impossible for someone to swallow her tongue)
  • Restrain her
  • Shake her or shout at her
  • Try to give her food or water during the seizure.

When to Call for Emergency Assistance

Most people will experience nothing more serious than fatigue and confusion after having a seizure. However, you should call for emergency help if the individual:

  • Had food or water in his mouth when the seizure began
  • Has another health condition (i.e. diabetes, infection, fever, pregnancy)
  • Has a second seizure soon after the first
  • Has a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes
  • Has never had a seizure before
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Injured herself during the seizure
  • Remains unconsciousness after the seizure.

This list is not exhaustive, and if you are in any doubt at all about the safety of the individual having a seizure, you should call for emergency medical help.

Resources

Donner, E. J., et al. (2006). What should I do when my child has a seizure? Retrieved April 6, 2010, from http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/Epilepsy/What-Should-I-Do-When-My-Child-Has-a-Seizure.aspx?articleID=6962