Canada Med Stop

How to Help Someone During a Seizure

Wednesday 1 May 2019
Neurological Disorders
3 minute(s) read
By Anonymous

Table of Contents

I. It's Usually Not an Emergency

II. What to Do When Someone Has a Seizure

III. Generalized Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal) Seizures

IV. What Not to Do

V. What is a Seizure Anyway?

Seizures are not rare. In fact, one in 10 people will experience one in their lifetime. So there is a chance you will encounter a person in a seizure at some point. Most seizures can be controlled with medications like Dilantin®(Phenytoin). Seizures can look scary, and knowing how they work and what to do when you encounter one can help calm everyone’s nerves. [1]

It's Usually Not an Emergency

Fortunately, seizures do not usually require emergency medical attention. You should find emergency help, however, if any of the following are true:

  • The person has difficulty breathing.
  • The person has difficulty waking up after the seizure.
  • The seizure lasts more than five minutes.
  • Injuries are suffered as a result of the seizure.
  • The seizure happens in water.
  • The affected person is pregnant.

You should also find emergency help if the person has never had a seizure before and if they have a health condition like diabetes or heart disease. 

What to Do When Someone Has a Seizure

There are different types of seizures, but for any type of seizure, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Stay with and comfort the person until the seizure ends and they are awake.
  • Keep everyone in the vicinity calm.
  • Check to see if the person seizing has medical identification.

Remember, not all seizures look the same. While some involve violent shaking, others, such as absence seizures, the person may look like they’re staring into space. [2] 

Generalized Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal) Seizures

This is the most well-known form of a seizure, and it can look scary. The person’s body may convulse in jerky motions and they may cry out or appear confused. Keep calm and keep these tips in mind:

  • Gently help the person lie down on their side and place something soft under their head.
  • Make sure there are no hazards nearby that the person can hurt themselves with, such as the sharp corners of tables. If the person wears glasses, remove them.
  • Make sure there is nothing around the person’s neck that can choke them.
  • Keep track of how long the seizure lasts. If it lasts longer than five minutes, call 9-1-1.

What Not to Do

Never try to hold someone down to stop their convulsions, and don't put anything in their mouths, including food and water, until the person is fully alert. Mouth-to-mouth breaths should also be avoided because people can usually breathe on their own again after the seizure stops. [3] 

What is a Seizure Anyway?

A seizure is a symptom of a brain disorder. They are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain that happens suddenly. Focal seizures, or partial seizures, affect just one area of the brain, while generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain.

When medical professionals talk about epilepsy, they are using a general term to describe a brain disorder that causes seizures. Just as there are different types of seizures, there are also different types of epilepsy. [4] 

You are diagnosed with epilepsy if you experience two or more seizures. However, most people with epilepsy go on to live full, long, and productive lives. Medications used to treat epilepsy, such as Dilantin®(Phenytoin), can help. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) exists, but it’s rare. [5]

DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.