First aid for a seizure

There are numerous reasons why someone may have a seizure (convulsion / fit). One of the most well known causes is a medical condition called Epilepsy, where there is a disturbance in the electrical activity in the brain (Learn more about Epilepsy).

However there can be a variety of other causes including:

  • Head injuries
  • Drugs / Alcohol
  • Poisoning
  • Low blood sugar (Hypoglycaemia)
  • High temperatures in babies and children (“infantile convulsion”).

First aid for a seizure

Step 1: Remove any objects from around the casualty (chairs, tables etc.) to prevent them injuring themselves. Make the area as safe as practically possible

Step  2: Protect the casualty’s head by padding around it and underneath the neck. Don’t place bulky padding underneath the casualty’s head as this could tilt their head forwards and close their airway.

Step 3: Try and establish a cause for the seizure. Are they a known to suffer from Epilepsy? Do they have Diabetes? Have they had an injury recently? Look for medical alert bracelets on the casualty’s wrists/ankles/neck which may contain details of any medical conditions.

Step 4: Call an ambulance unless the casualty is known to have seizures regularly and doesn’t normally go to hospital.

Step 5: Note how long the seizure lasts for, and whether there are any gaps.

Step 6: When the seizure stops, open the casualty’s airway by tilting their head backwards and check for normal breathing for up to 10 seconds. If they are breathing then roll them onto their side to protect their airway. If they are not breathing then commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Remember to protect and maintain the casualty’s dignity throughout. Move on any crowds of people and try to offer some privacy. Although the person having the seizure is unconscious, they may still be able to hear or have an awareness of people around them. When the casualty wakes up they may be very confused. Speak slowly and clearly and explain what has happened.

First aid myths – seizures

There are several myths and “old wives tales” around the correct first aid treatment for seizures.

First aid myth 1: You should place something in their mouth in order to prevent them swallowing their own tongue.

IncorrectAs well as being a severe choking risk, this could cause damage to the casualty’s teeth and gums.

First aid myth 2: You should try and restrain the person and hold them down.

Incorrect - A person having a seizure will be very strong. You should not attempt to hold them down as they could easily injure you.

First aid myth 3: You should throw cold water on the person to wake them up

Incorrect - Do not try and wake them up with cold water. This could be a choking risk. Plus it won’t work.

Summary

Keep the person safe. Do not attempt to restrain them or stop the seizure. Do not place anything in their mouth. Call an ambulance.

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