First Aid for Epilepsy Caregivers

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If your loved one suffers from epilepsy, you know how helpless you can feel watching him or her experience a seizure. Or perhaps you haven’t been present for one, but are nervous about how you might handle it. No matter how many seizures you may have witnessed, they can be unpredictable. It’s hard to tell how long they will last or what might happen. But knowing how to respond safely and when to get help is the best way to prepare.

Protect, Care and Comfort

Some people remain fully aware and alert during a seizure; others may seem alert, but really aren’t aware of what’s going on. The main goal during any seizure is to protect the person from harm until his full awareness returns.

For most seizures, these basic first aid steps will help you protect and care for your loved one during the episode, and keep him comfortable once it’s over.

  • Remain calm. Most seizures only last a few seconds or minutes and can be handled with basic care and comfort. Speak calmly and reassure the person that she is safe and you are there to help. If you remain calm, so will others around you.

  • Stay with your loved one. Though most seizures are brief, some may last longer. Seizures can also start with minor symptoms but lead to a loss of consciousness, which could result in a fall. Always stay with the epileptic until you are sure the seizure is over or until a medical professional arrives. Make sure the person is fully aware of what is going on before leaving him alone.

  • Check your watch. It’s important to time the seizure so you know how long it lasts. If it goes on for more than five minutes, call for emergency help.

  • Clear the area. Sometimes someone may walk around during a seizure but won’t be in control of what they are doing or where they are going. Be sure to remove any sharp objects or other dangerous obstacles, and don’t let the person wander away.

  • Ease her onto the floor. If you can, try to get her into a comfortable reclining position on the floor or on a flat surface to prevent any falls.

  • Place something soft and flat under her head. And make sure there is nothing tight around her neck that could interfere with breathing.

  • Turn him to one side. Gently position him on one side to keep his airway clear to prevent choking. If he’s seated, try to turn his head to one side so any fluids can drain away from his mouth.

  • Don’t put anything into his mouth. Don't try to open the person’s mouth or give him any fluids or medicine until the seizure is completely over and he is fully alert again. And rest assured, contrary to popular belief, seizures do not cause people to swallow their tongues.

  • Don’t restrain him. It’s important to protect a person from injury during a seizure, but you also don’t want to hold him down or stop any jerking movements. Muscles contract with force during seizures, and restraining him could cause tears in his muscles or even break a bone. As the jerking begins to slow, make sure he’s breathing normally.

  • Comfort. Some people are confused or cranky after a seizure while others may be exhausted. Reassure your loved one with kind, comforting words, and encourage her to take slow, deep breaths or do something relaxing.

When to Get Help

Most seizures end without incident or the need for any medical treatment. But in rare cases, you may need to get emergency help. Be sure to call 911 if any of the following occur:

  • It’s the person’s first seizure.

  • The seizure goes on longer than five minutes.

  • Another seizure starts right after the first one.

  • He has trouble breathing or is choking.

  • He seems hurt or in pain during or after the seizure.

  • The seizure occurs in water.

  • He asks for medical help.

  • He seems confused more than an hour after the seizure or isn’t returning to her normal self.

Seizures can be frightening, but with a little preparation, you can feel confident in your abilities to keep your loved one safe.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. Babysitter’s and Caregiver’s First Aid Guide. Epilepsy Foundation, Greater Chicago.

  2. Seizure First Aid. Epilepsy Foundation.

  3. Managing Seizures; Information for Caregivers. Epilepsy Foundation.

  4. Seizure First Aid. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  5. Care and Comfort First Aid. Epilepsy Foundation.

  6. Tailoring First Aid Plans. Epilepsy Foundation.