Epilepsy Recognition & First Aid

Epilepsy is currently defined as a tendency to have recurrent seizures (sometimes called fits). A seizure is caused by a sudden burst of excess electrical activity in the brain, causing a temporary disruption in the normal message passing between brain cells. This disruption results in the brain's messages becoming halted or mixed up.

The brain is responsible for all the functions of your body, so what you experience during a seizure will depend on where in your brain the epileptic activity begins and how widely and rapidly it spreads. For this reason, there are many different types of seizure and each person will experience epilepsy in a way that is unique to them.  

Epilepsy Action is a great source of information and advice about Epilepsy.

What do i do if someone is having a seizure?

Tonic-Clonic seizures are where the person loses consciousness, the body stiffens, then falls to the ground. This is followed by jerking movements. A blue tinge around the mouth is likely. This is due to irregular breathing. Loss of bladder and/or bowel control may occur. After a minute or two the jerking movements should stop and consciousness may slowly return.

Do...

  • Protect the person from injury - (remove harmful objects from nearby)
  • Cushion their head
  • Look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery
  • Aid breathing by gently placing them in a safe airway position once the seizure has finished
  • Be calmly reassuring
  • Stay with the person until recovery is complete

Don't...

  • Restrain the person
  • Put anything in the person's mouth
  • Try to move the person unless they are in danger
  • Give the person anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

For seizures involving altered consciousness:

Simple partial seizures

 Twitching, numbness, sweating, dizziness or nausea; disturbances to hearing, vision, smell or taste; a strong sense of deja vu.

Complex partial seizures
Plucking at clothes, smacking lips, swallowing repeatedly or wandering around. The person is not aware of their surroundings or of what they are doing.

Atonic seizures
Sudden loss of muscle control causing the person to fall to the ground. Recovery is quick.

Myoclonic seizures
Brief forceful jerks which can affect the whole body or just part of it. The jerking could be severe enough to make the person fall.

Absence seizures
The person may appear to be daydreaming or switching off. They are momentarily unconscious and totally unaware of what is happening around them.

Do...

  • Guide the person from danger
  • Look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery
  • Stay with the person until recovery is complete
  • Be calmly reassuring
  • Explain anything that they may have missed

Don't...

  • Restrain the person
  • Act in a way that could frighten them, such as making abrupt movements or shouting at them
  • Assume the person is aware of what is happening, or what has happened
  • Give the person anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

Call for an ambulance if...

  • You know it is the person's first seizure
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes
  • One tonic-clonic seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness between seizures
  • The person is injured during the seizure
  • You believe the person needs urgent medical attention

For more information on seizure types click here.