• Seizures

    What is a Seizure?

    A seizure is the result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, leading to temporary and involuntary changes in body movement, function, sensation, awareness or behavior. Seizures can have many different causes. One common cause is epilepsy, a chronic seizure disorder that can often be controlled with medication. Other causes of seizure include fever, infection, diabetic emergencies, heat stroke and injuries to the brain tissue.

    Signs, Symptoms, and Types of Seizures

    There are different types of seizures. One common type of seizure is called a grand mal seizure. A person having a grand mal seizure loses consciousness and has convulsions (uncontrolled body movements caused by contraction of the muscles). Another common type of seizure is called an absence seizure. The person experiences a brief, sudden lapse of consciousness, causing the person to momentarily become very quiet and have a blank stare. A person with epilepsy may experience an aura (an unusual sensation or feeling) before the onset of the seizure. If the person recognizes the aura, he or she may have time to tell someone what is happening and sit down before the seizure occurs.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as appropriate.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • Seizure longer than 5 minutes*
    • More than one seizure in a row*
    • Injury from seizure*
    • Cardiac arrest after seizure*
    • Seizure in water*
    • Loss of consciousness*
    • First seizure episode*
    • Entire body convulsions*
    • Involuntary muscle activity of a body part (e.g., jerking, repetitive movements)
    • Unusual vocal sounds, lip smacking or chewing noises
    • Staring, particularly to one side
    • Aura (unusual sensation or feeling) before onset

    *Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care: During a Seizure

    1. Check them for responsiveness and breathing if safe to do so.
    2. Let seizure run its course; do not try to hold the person down to stop it.
    3. Take steps to prevent injury; move objects that could cause injury.
    4. Monitor the person.
    5. Turn them onto their side into a recovery position if possible to do so without injury to them or you.

    General Care: After a Seizure

    1. If person is unresponsive and not breathing (cardiac arrest), immediately begin CPR or compression-only CPR based on level of training and use an AED when available.
    2. Position the person as appropriate.
    3. Place person in recovery position if unresponsive and breathing, or responsive but not fully awake.
    4. Continue checking them as appropriate to determine if additional care is needed.
    5. Keep them from getting cold or overheated.
    6. Give care for shock, if necessary.
    7. Assist with or administer medication, if needed, according to your level of training.
    8. Stay with them until they are fully recovered and aware of surroundings.
    9. Reassure them you will help and that EMS has been called (if appropriate).
    10. Watch for changes in condition, including breathing and responsiveness, and give care as appropriate and trained.

    Seizure FAQs

    Is it normal for a person to be drowsy and disoriented after a seizure?

    Yes. The person may be drowsy and disoriented for as long as 20 minutes after the seizure is over.

    Should I put something between the teeth of a person having a seizure to prevent the person from biting or swallowing their tongue?

    No. This practice is unsafe and unnecessary. It is impossible to swallow one’s own tongue. Although the person may bite down on their tongue, causing it to bleed, this is a minor problem compared with the problems that can be caused by attempting to put an object in the mouth of a person who is having a seizure. You could chip a tooth or knock a tooth loose, putting the person at risk for choking. The person may also bite down with enough force to break the object and then choke on it. Additionally, attempting to place an object in the person’s mouth puts you at risk for getting bitten.

    How do I know if someone has epilepsy?

    Epilepsy is a chronic seizure disorder that can often be controlled with medication. You may find some form of identification on the person, for example, a card, bracelet, necklace or digital identification on a mobile phone, which will give you information about their condition. If you are unsure if they have a history of seizures, call 9-1-1.

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    Information Provided the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC)

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