Consider an epileptic seizure an emergency and call 911 only under the following circumstances:
- The seizure occurs in water, or lasts longer than five minutes without signs of slowing down, or if a person has trouble breathing afterwards and appears to be in pain.
- The person has another seizure soon after the first one.
- The person cannot be awakened after the seizure activity has stopped.
- The person became injured during the seizure.
- The person becomes aggressive.
- The person has a health condition like diabetes or heart disease or is pregnant.
First aid for an epileptic seizure involves responding in ways that can keep the person safe until the seizure stops by itself. A person who is having a generalized grand mal seizure will commonly experience a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions during the seizure:
- Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
- Prevent injury by clearing the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
- Ease the person to the floor and put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his head. Do not hold the person down or try to stop his movements. Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear.
- Remove eyeglasses and loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
- Time the seizure with your watch. If the seizure continues for longer than five minutes without signs of slowing down or if a person has trouble breathing afterwards, appears to be injured, in pain, or recovery is unusual in some way, call 911.
- Contrary to popular belief, it is not true that a person having a seizure can swallow his tongue. Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. Efforts to hold the tongue down can injure their teeth or jaw.
- Do not attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally and they are fully awake.
- Do not offer the person water or food until they become fully alert
- Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns. Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if they still seem confused or unable to get home without help.
- Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/basics/first_aid.htm