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How to Help Someone Having a Seizure

Updated on July 10, 2014

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. Anyone with a brain can have a crisis, but one crisis is not enough to diagnose epilepsy. Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that worldwide there are 50 million people with epilepsy (ie, 1%).

Epilepsy Explained:

A Book for People Who Want to Know More

What Epilepsy Is Not

As an epileptic, I've found several misconceptions exist regarding epilepsy and seizures. I'd like to clear up a few of them. I used to think some of the same things (even when my mother had seizures), but information and perspectives change over time.

Epilepsy is not a psychological problem, not a mental illness and is not contagious. In the brain there are billions of neurons that transmit electrical and chemical signals. When a sudden, excessive electrical discharge that disrupts normal activity of neurons, a seizure occurs.

Crises can affect alertness and cause involuntary movements, spasms, convulsions or strange sensations. The location of the discharge in the brain determines how epilepsy manifests. The frequency of attacks varies from very distant extremes: be very sporadic or occur several times a day. When the person answers correctly to drug treatment, it is possible to live without crisis.

Who Is Susceptible to Seizures?

Seizures Don't Happen Only to Epileptics

Although epilepsy can occur at any stage of life, is more common in childhood and old age. In 75% of cases, seizures can be controlled with medication Seizures can be caused by high fever, diseases such as epilepsy, drug ingestion or by a blow to the head.

Importantly, for all people with chronic illness, particularly epilepsy, it is very important to have it a medic alert bracelet or necklace with your name, address, blood type, medications and times they are taken, and the phone numbers of family and / or medical professionals whom to contact.

EPILEPSY 101-The Ultimate Guide for patients and Families

What Causes Epilepsy?

What You Can Do To Help a Seizure Victim

Steps to Help the Person

1. Stay calm. When the crisis has already started it can not be stopped. Do not fight with the person or try to restrain their movements. In most cases the crisis lasts approximately 60 to 90 seconds and, in rare cases, can last up to 5 minutes.

2. Clear the area around the person. Remove sharp objects or anything hard with that can hurt him/her. If possible, place a soft item like a pillow or a folded garment under the head so as not to hit against the ground. Some have victims have premonitory warning symptoms (I hear the rumble of a train!). Sometimes the seizure victm will suffer a generalized crisis and often can tell when the symptoms are occurring. This gives you the time to them to lie down on a couch, bed or on the floor in to avoid injury.

3. Do not try to put anything between the teeth. This can only increase the chance of harming the victim. Do not try to pull the tongue out. They will not swallow their tongue. Putting your fingers in the mouth will only get you bitten.

4. Turn the person's head to one side when the seizure has subsided. This will allow saliva or other fluids from the mouth to flow out easily. Wait until the crisis ends and their body relaxes to check if there are any further tremors.

5. Do not be alarmed. If the person stops breathing momentarily and gets purple lips, do not panic. This is very short-lived and does not need resuscitation and mouth-to-mouth. Don't use any strong odors (onions, smelling salts, etc.) since it does not help the person recover more quickly.

6. Carefully observe the actions and movements of the person during the crisis as well as the duration, to explain to the doctor what happened in detail. Just be aware that after a crisis there may be a state of sleep or unconsciousness. This is called the postictal period and and is a natural recovery time.

7. Keep a calm demeanor when the person recovers from the crisis, allow them to rest and, if asked, tell them what happened.

8. When there are many attacks one after another without regaining consciousness or a seizure lasts longer than 10 minutes, this requires immediate medical attention. Call an ambulance or, if one is not available, transfer the person to the nearest medical facility.

9. When a crisis is short (under 5 minutes) and does not recur, the victim should call their doctor for an appointment to discuss this

latest seizure. Don't go to an emergency room unless this seizure is the first or is accompanied by fever .

10. If it is possible to do so, share the information about the seizure with the person's loved one or caregiver. They are usually the person who keeps track of this (my wife has everything organized on an Excel spreadsheet. She's very organized!)

Basic Steps to Take When You See Someone Having a Seizure

Signs of Epilepsy

Do You Have Any Experiences With Seizures? Please Share or Leave a Comment

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    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @Loretta L: My mom usually had hers at night, as well. I do, too. I hope your dad and sister are doing well.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 

      5 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      Not personally. My Dad and my sister have both had fits. My Dad's were caused by head trauma and my sister's only occurred at night. I never saw either of them have fits, but it is useful to know what to do incase anyone I know ever does.

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @pixie leaf: I'm happy I could help. If you have any questions, please contact me. I'll be glad to help.

    • pixie leaf profile image

      pixie leaf 

      5 years ago

      I was just wondering what exactly to do. Thanks for laying it out in clear steps. I just found out that I know someone who suffers from seizures. Hopefully I'll know now what to do.

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @lissynoni: Thanks. I'm glad you found it helpful.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This info is very informative and I never been in such a predicament but it is something to think about and to raise awareness.

    • takkhisa profile image


      5 years ago

      I guess it is a great lens that everybody should read :)

    • DobbyMiller profile image


      5 years ago

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @Bobski606: Thanks for you kind words. I hope I gave enough information. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A handful of my friends have very well controlled epilepsy but I have never known what to do in case they had a seizure. This is a great lens and needs to be shown to the world!

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      My brother-in-law is an Epileptic and has seizures frequently. It is a scary situation when it happens. Thanks for sharing this!

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @LynetteBell: It's a good thing people there were prepared. Thanks so much for your comments.

    • LoriBeninger profile image


      5 years ago

      My mother-in-law has epilepsy. My husband is a retired Public Safety Officer who responded to a "needs assistance" call once where a woman whose husband was out of town when she recognized the signs that she was about to have a seizure. Alone with a toddler and an infant, all she needed was for someone to watch the children while she rested in an attempt to avert the crisis. My husband understood completely...a better responder would have been hard to find.

      I hope you lens gets good traffic and attention...this is good information to have.

    • LynetteBell profile image


      5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I was next to a young girl who had a seizure at a conference. Fortunately there were several people there who knew what to do.

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @LoriBeninger: I'm grateful that the woman was okay. And give my thanks to your husband for all of his work. My wife said I was aggressive with the paramedics who responded to my first seizure as I was coming out of it. I had to be held down for a few minutes until I realized what was going on.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      5 years ago

      Good to know how to help a person in the midst of having a seizure, thank-you for sharing this valuable info

    • Ursel001 profile image


      5 years ago

      Very helpfull info!

      Great lens!

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @lbrummer: Thanks. I'm hopeful this lens will be helpful to people. Thanks for the blessing.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      Like you, my son-in-law also had a seizure which was triggered by a tumor. We are so thankful that this sign was given. This lens gives some important information. Blessed!!

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @TLStahling: I'm glad to hear she's okay.

    • TLStahling profile image

      TL Stahling 

      5 years ago from US

      My cousin had to wear a helmet around the house due to numerous grand mals. She did have successful brain surgery in Missouri and now lives a normal life. She had to relearn many simple things we take for granted (i.e. tying her shoes, the alphabet, etc.) but memories eventually came back over time. She was so excited about driving!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      When I was a student, I worked at an institution for retarded people. "Grand mal" was common and to deal with seizures on a daily basis (medication was not good at the time) really made a huge impression on me. Many students could not handle it and simply refused to work there. I stayed there for 3 years (1966-1968). With modern medication seizures would have been virtually non-existent. Many people with the non-severe form of epilepsy ("petit mal") don't even realize that they have a condition which can be controlled 100%.

    • jamesdesalvo lm profile imageAUTHOR

      jamesdesalvo lm 

      5 years ago

      @ItayaLightbourne: Yeah, it's frightening. I was very young when my mother had her first. I never had one until I turned 40. It was triggered by a brain tumor. It's a good thing that I had a seizure, otherwise the tumor would never have been caught.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      My little sister had them when she was a baby and was borderline epileptic. I was the first one she had a seizure with. Scared me big time. Very informative article. :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Informative - I've never had any experience with someone having a seizure.

    • LaurenIM profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow good stuff about how to deal with someone with seizures! Never know when I would need this information so I'm glad I read your lens.


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