Do you know what to do when someone has a seizure?

Learn Seizure First Aid

Epilepsy is more common than autism, Parkinson's, MS, and cerebral palsy combined.
  1. You can’t swallow your tongue during a seizure. It's physically impossible.
  2. You should NEVER force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure. Absolutely not! Forcing something into the mouth of someone having a seizure is a good way to chip teeth, cut gums, or even break someone's jaw.
  3. DON'T restrain someone having a seizure. Most seizures end in seconds or a few minutes and will end on their own.
  4. The correct seizure first aid is simple: Stay. Safe. Side. STAY with the person and start timing the seizure. Keep the person SAFE. Turn the person onto their SIDE if they are not  awake and aware. Do NOT put anything in their mouth. Do NOT restrain. Stay with them until they are awake and alert after the seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes; repeated seizures; difficulty breathing; seizure occurs in water; person is injured is injured, pregnant or sick; person does not return to their usual state, first time seizure; or the person asks for medical help.
  5. Epilepsy is NOT contagious. You simply can't catch epilepsy from another person.
  6. Anyone can develop epilepsy. Seizures start for the first time in people over age 65 almost as often as it does in children. Seizures in the elderly are often the after effect of other health problems like stroke and heart disease.
  7. Most people with epilepsy CAN DO the same things that people without epilepsy can do. However, some people with frequent seizures may not be able to work, drive, or may have problems in other parts of their life.
  8. People with epilepsy CAN handle jobs with responsibility and stress. People with seizure disorders are found in all walks of life. They may work in business, government, the arts, and all sorts of professions. If stress bothers their seizures, they may need to learn ways to manage stress. But everyone needs to learn how to cope with stress! There may be some types of jobs that people with epilepsy can’t do because of possible safety problems. Otherwise, having epilepsy should not affect the type of job or responsibility that a person has.
  9. Epilepsy is a chronic medical problem that for many people can be successfully treated. Unfortunately, treatment doesn't work for everyone. AT LEAST 1 million people in the United States have uncontrolled epilepsy. There is still an urgent need for more research, better treatments, and a cure.
  10. Epilepsy is NOT rare. There are more than twice as many people with epilepsy in the U.S. as the number of people with cerebral palsy (500,000), muscular dystrophy (250,000), multiple sclerosis (350,000), and cystic fibrosis (30,000) combined. Epilepsy can occur as a single condition or may be seen with other conditions affecting the brain, such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, autism, Alzheimer's disease, and traumatic brain injury.
  11. You CAN die from epilepsy. While death in epilepsy doesn't happen frequently, epilepsy is a very serious condition and individuals do die from seizures. The most common cause of death is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). While there is a lot we still don’t know about SUDEP, experts estimate that 1 out of every 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP each year. People can also die from prolonged seizures (status epilepticus). 1.9% of deaths in people with epilepsy is due to this type of seizure emergency.
  12. What happens in a seizure may look different from one person to another. However, seizures are usually stereotypic, which means the same things or behaviors tend to occur in a person each time they have a seizure. The seizure behavior may be inappropriate for the time and place, but it is unlikely to cause harm to anyone. (Learn about types of seizures.)
  13. People with epilepsy are usually not physically limited in what they can do. During and after a seizure, a person may have trouble moving or doing their usual activity. Some people may have trouble with physical abilities due to other neurological problems. Aside from these problems, a person who is not having a seizure is usually not limited in what they can do physically.
Authored By: 
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Authored Date: 
07/2013
Reviewed By: 
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Andres M. Kanner MD
Elaine Wirrell MD
on: 
Wednesday, February 27, 2019