How to react when somebody has a seizure
Witnessing a seizure can be frightening. Many people make the mistake of trying to stop the seizure victim from convulsing, but that is a mistake. The best way to respond is to stay calm and follow these steps:
- Do not restrain the patient. Seizures are caused by unusual changes in the brain’s electrical activity, causing the patient to lose control over or sometimes even consciousness of his body. Restraining a patient who has no control over his movements can lead to his injury and yours.
- Clear and cushion the area. Instead of trying to stop the seizure, simply try to protect the patient by clearing the area around her of any hard objects, such as furniture. Provide a barrier of cushions, such as sweaters, soft backpacks, pillows, or mats.
- Help the patient to the ground. If he is standing, gently try to help him to the ground. Position him on his side to protect him from choking on saliva.
- Wait for the seizure to pass and take notes. These notes will later be important to help the patient’s doctor understand the type of seizure the patient experienced and decide on treatment.
Duration: Note the time at the beginning and end of the seizures. If they last for more than five minutes, call 911 immediately.
The patient’s behavior leading up to the seizure: Is she jerking, shaking, or flailing? Are her arms, legs, and head involved?
The patient’s behavior after the seizure: Does she show symptoms of confusion, drowsiness, weakness or paralysis, muscle soreness, or anxiety or depression?
- Provide comfort and check on the patient after the seizure. Encourage the patient to stay lying down and to rest. Do not offer him food or water until he is fully alert and aware of his surroundings. Check for injuries, especially cuts and bruises.
- Call 911 immediately if the patient stops breathing or if the patient is pregnant. When the patient has recovered and rested, follow through by encouraging her to schedule an appointment with her general health care provider as soon as possible. She may be referred to a neurologist or an epileptologist to determine needed treatment.