The primary duties of a person performing first aid to someone having an epileptic seizure is to keep the casualty from injury during convulsions. do NOT attempt to move the epileptic, instead move any potentially injurious objects away from them.
  • DO NOT allow untrained/unknowledgeable people to attempt to render first aid.
  • let the seizure run its course.
  • when the seizure stops, make sure the sufferer is breathing easily.
  • place the sufferer on their side and let them recover how they best see fit -- the after effects of seizures are different from person to person.
  • DO NOT put anything in the sufferers mouth. Contrary to popular belief, there is no danger whatsoever of swallowing the tongue.
  • DO NOT try to pull the tongue towards the front of the mouth. the most common effect of this well-intentioned but ignorant attempt at first aid is a bite.
  • DO NOT attempt to restrain the sufferer. this will, more than likely, result in injury to you or the epileptic.

During the seizure, muscle control is lost. this includes the diaphragm and tongue. the sufferer will stop breathing and their tongue will fall to the back of the throat. this is NOT the sufferer choking on the tongue nor does it matter that it is blocking the airway -- at this point, the sufferer is not breathing anyway due to the relaxation of the diaphram. a few minutes into the seizure, the sufferer will regain control over their muscles and breathing will begin normally.

if this doesn't happen within five (some say three -- use your own judgement) minutes of onset, call 911 immediately. this could be the early stages of Status Epilepticus. Unless there is an injury to the epileptic, do not call 911 unless you suspect Status Epilepticus. In almost all cases, an Emergency Room trip is not necessary and only tends to make the epileptic angry or upset at causing a scene or an inconvenience.

Here are some good general rules about when to call 911:
  • The person is pregnant or has diabetes.
  • The seizure lasts longer than five minutes.
  • Breathing does not start again or the sufferer does not return to consciousness after the seizure stops.
  • The sufferer injures themself during the seizure.
  • If you think this is the persons first seizure call 911 (assume it's the first if the suffere does not have medical alert jewelry or a card in their wallet).
  • If you come upon a seizure in progress and do not know how long it has been going on.
  • The seizure happens in water.
  • The seizure happens as a result of head trauma.

First Aid

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