How can I help someone going through a seizure?

If you are with someone who has a convulsive seizure, you should try to:

  • Stay calm;
  • Time the seizure;
  • Protect the person from injury;
  • Place something soft under the head;
  • Loosen tight clothing at the neck;
  • Roll the person onto his/her side when the jerking stops and;
  • If breathing seems difficult, check the person's mouth to ensure that their tongue, food or dentures are not blocking the airflow;
  • Provide reassurance and minimize embarrassment during recovery.

Never under any circumstance:

  • Put anything in the person's mouth or between the teeth;
  • Restrain the person unless they are in immediate danger;
  • Give food or drink until recovery is complete.

If the seizure occurs while the person is in a wheelchair, car seat or stroller, leave him or her seated if secure and safely strapped into the device. Just support the head. If the person is unconscious when the jerking stops, remove him or her from the seat and roll the person onto his or her side.

Call a doctor or ambulance immediately if:

  • The seizure lasts more that five minutes or a second seizure quickly follows the first;
  • The person has trouble breathing after the seizure;
  • The person is not starting to recover consciousness within five minutes of the seizure stopping;
  • The seizure occurs in water;
  • The person is injured;
  • The person is pregnant;
  • The person has diabetes;
  • You believe it is the person's first seizure or you do not know (regardless of how long the seizure lasts);
  • The person does not fully recover.

A person having a non-convulsive seizure may simply appear dazed or otherwise disoriented. All you need to do in this case is reassure the person and gently guide him or her away from harm until the seizure subsides. You should call a doctor or ambulance if:

  • The person is not starting to recover from the seizure after 15 minutes;
  • The person has diabetes;
  • The person is injured;
  • You believe it is the person's first seizure or you do not know (regardless of how long the seizure lasts).

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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