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Straight, No Chaser: Seizure First Aid Do's and Don'ts

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD July 17, 2019

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I enjoy empowering you to act. There are many examples of emergency situations in which your actions can be beneficial, including the presence of active seizures. We previously discussed the various causes and symptoms of seizures. Even without understanding all of that, it’s important for you to be aware of some basic first aid maneuvers in the event that you come across someone having a seizure. However, you can’t act irresponsibly; seizures have a high enough incidence of associated injuries that your correct actions can make a world of difference, and the wrong actions can be harmful.
Let’s review the do’s, don’ts and warning signs regarding actions in those early moments when many are inclined to panic.

Seizure First-Aid-Banner_1

The Do’s

  • The first thing I want you to do is to collect yourself. You can’t help anyone unless you’re composed.
  • Many of the bad things that will happen relate to injuries that can occur during the thrashing around that occurs during a seizure. You want to protect the person from any possible harm. Be mindful not to hurt yourself in the process.
  • If the person is standing, cushion the body (especially the head) and/or prevent a fall. Try to lower the person onto a soft surface so no head banging happens with any additional seizure activity.
  • You want to protect the person’s airway and the ability to breath. The best way for you to do this is to turn the person on the side. This will prevent any vomiting or drooling from going into the lungs.
  • You also want to make sure to loosen constricting clothing, especially around the neck.
  • Do not leave until professional help arrives.


The Don’ts

  • Do not try to hold down someone in the midst of an active seizure.
  • Do not place your fingers or anything else inside someone’s mouth during a seizure, even if you think they’re choking. Wait until the person is completely awake, alert and talking before you attempt to place anything in the mouth.
  • Do not move a seizing individual unless s/he is in danger or near something hazardous. Even then, you must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of acting.
  • Do not grab the head or neck of someone seizing in an effort to make it stop. Seizures just don’t work that way, and the person has no control over the seizure.
  • Do not start CPR in someone actively seizing.
  • Do not place a child in a cold bath, even if you think the child’s seizure have been described as being due to fevers in the past.

Seizures First Aid

When to See a Physician
Call 911 or get to your nearest emergency room if:

  • This is the person’s first seizure.
  • The person does not fully regain consciousness and normal behavior after a seizure.
  • Another seizure starts soon after a seizure ends.
  • The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
  • The seizure occurred in water (e.g. bath tub)
  • The seizure occurred in someone who is pregnant or has diabetes.
  • The seizure caused an injury.
  • There is anything different about this seizure.
  • The person has not been taking seizure medication as prescribed.

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