10 things to do when someone is suffering from a seizure

Know all about epilepsy so you know exactly how to help! (source:

Seizures occur when there is uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. Because of these impulses, the patient can have highly dramatic to sometimes very mild symptoms. However, seizures mostly point to an underlying pathology that requires instant attention.

What are the symptoms of a seizure?

Depending upon the type of seizure, the symptoms may differ. However, usually, the symptoms of seizures include:

  • Headache
  • Sudden, temporary confusion
  • Dizziness, falling
  • Biting of tongue
  • Froth escaping from mouth
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Rapid eye movement that occurs suddenly
  • Sudden anxiety or fear
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Jerky, uncontrollable movements of limbs
  • A continuous stare
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of consciousness, fainting

Seizures usually last from 30 seconds to as much as 15 minutes. A seizure surpassing over 5 minutes is considered a medical emergency.

How many types of seizures are there?

There are actually more than 30 different types of seizures. However, to understand simply, they can be divided into two major types- generalized onset seizures and focal onset seizures.

Generalized Onset Seizures

In these seizures, the waves of electrical discharges may begin from several areas of the brain simultaneously. There are several types of generalized onset seizures, some of which include:

  1. Atonic Seizures (Drop Seizures) – There is a loss of muscle control, your limbs might go limp. This causes the patient to fall suddenly. Usually this lasts for only 15 seconds.
  2. Tonic Seizures– There is muscle stiffening- mainly affecting muscles of your arms, legs and back. This too may cause you to fall or collapse.
  3. Clonic Seizures– There is repeated jerking movement of muscles that usually affects the face, neck or arms.
  4. Tonic-Clonic Seizures (grand mal seizures)- There is shaking and stiffening of the body and sudden loss of consciousness. The patient may sometimes lose bladder control and begin biting his tongue. These seizures can last for some minutes.
  5. Myoclonic Seizures- Abrupt onset of twitches and jerks of the patient’s upper and lower limbs.
  6. Absence Seizures (petit mal seizures)—The patient seems to have a staring spell combined with lip smacking or eye blinking. Many times, this causes a loss of awareness as well. Thankfully, it lasts only for a few seconds.

Focal Onset Seizures

These kinds of seizures occur as a result off uncontrolled electrical discharge from only one focal area of the brain. They are also known as partial onset seizures.

What steps should I take if I see someone suffering from a seizure?

  1. Call 911 if required. However, remember that usually, you do not need to call an ambulance unless:
  • The seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes
  • This is the first seizure the person has ever suffered.
  • Another seizure follows, as soon as the first one ends
  • The person has co-morbidities such as heart disease, diabetes or if the person is pregnant.
  • The person is facing difficulty in waking or breathing after the seizure.
  • The seizure happens in water or if the person gets hurt during the seizure.
  1. Accompany the person until the seizure ends; do not try to restrain his/her jerks or movements. Do not shake the person and don’t shout at them.
  2. Remove harmful objects from their surroundings so that they are protected from possible injury.
  3. Keep a cushion under their head if possible (you can also use a folded jacket or cloth for this.)
  4. Look for any kind of epilepsy identity card or identity jewelry. This may give you information about the kind of seizure they are having, and what you can do to help
  5. Loosen the person’s collar so that he is able to breathe freely. Maintain clear airway by gripping the jaw slightly and tilting the head back so that airway can be opened.
  6. Time the seizure and see how long it lasted. Take note of the symptoms that you are able to observe. These details may be helpful to the medical personnel after they arrive.
  7. Politely ask bystanders to stay back.
  8. After the jerks stop, roll the person onto their side in order to prevent them from choking from or aspirating their saliva or vomit.
  9. After the person regains consciousness, remain calm and comfort the person. Once they are able to understand, tell them about what happened.

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