What to do if someone has a seizure or fit

Seizures are unpredictable and may occur without warning. This can be very frightening, both for the person having the seizure and those around them.

Knowing what to do if you see someone having a seizure may help them and make the event less worrying.

Most seizures are brief and stop by themselves. They are not usually life threatening, and do not usually require the person to go to hospital. First aid is aimed at keeping the person safe, not to try and affect the course of the seizure. The person who has had the seizure will normally be back to normal within half an hour or so, but may be very tired and need to sleep.

For a convulsive (shaking) seizure:

This may last for one to five minutes.

Remember to

  • Consider your safety first.
  • Keep calm
  • Check the time to monitor how long the seizure lasts
  • Prevent others from crowding round
  • If the person is unconscious, loosen any tight clothing around their neck.
  • Prevent injury by cushioning their head, removing sharp objects, or moving furniture. Only move the person if they are in immediate danger, for example if the person is in water or on a road.
  • Once the episode has finished, aid breathing by placing the person on their side and gently lift their chin, tilting their head backwards (recovery position)
  • Stay with them until they are fully recovered and aware of their surroundings
  • Gently reassure them as they recover

Do not

  • Do not try to put anything in the person's mouth
  • Do not try to restrain the person's movements.
  • Avoid attempting to move them unless they are in danger
  • Do not attempt give the person anything to drink until they are fully recover

 

Recovery

Once the seizure has stopped, many people feel tired or have a headache and need to sleep for several hours.

Other types of seizures

In some seizures the person will not become unconscious, but may look blank, or become confused and disorientated. They may fiddle with their clothing or objects they are holding and may wander around in a confused manner.

For these types of seizures follow the safety advice above, gently directing the person away from danger if necessary. Stay with them, offering reassurance until they are able to return to normal activities, which may be after 10 to 15 minutes.

When should an ambulance be called?

It is often not necessary for the person who has had the seizure to go to hospital. However an ambulance should be called if:

  • You do not know the person or they have not had a seizure before
  • A convulsive (shaking) seizure lasts more than five minutes.
  • One convulsive seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness in between.
  • The person has injured themselves during a seizure, is having difficulty breathing, or if you are worried about their health in anyway.