Seizures can be frightening to witness, but most are not emergency medical situations. Here are some general guidelines for first aid if you are a witness to a seizure.

  1. Above all else, stay calm. 
  2. Look at the person’s surroundings. If they are in a dangerous place, like the street, then move or gently guide the person to a safer location. If they are not in immediate danger, do not move the person, and do not attempt to restrain them. It is important that you let the seizure happen. Instead, move objects like furniture away from the person. Cushion the person’s head if they have collapsed.
  3. Note the time the seizure started.
  4. Stay with the individual. If they do not collapse but seem blank or confused, reassure them calmly.
  5. Do NOT put anything in their mouth, and do NOT hold them down, but if the person has collapsed and appears to be vomiting or choking, make sure their head is tilted to one side.
  6. Check the time again. If a seizure doesn’t stop after 5 minutes, call 911 and ask for an ambulance.
  7. After the seizure stops, reassure the person. If they are not able to breathe normally after the seizure has ended, call for an ambulance. Stay with them until they have fully recovered.

Most seizures stop in under 2 minutes. For seizures that last longer, physicians may prescribe a “rescue” medication, which can be administered by a caregiver. If it is a first-time seizure, call 911, regardless of how long the seizure lasted.

It is important to create an emergency seizure plan with you or your child’s physician. This plan can be shared with other caregivers, your child’s school nurse or teachers, sleep-away camp counselors, and others who may be present during a seizure.