Important First Aid For Epileptic Seizures


It can be very frightening if you or someone around you is having an epileptic seizure. To help alleviate some of the anxiety, here is some very important, practical information.

What is epilepsy and what is a seizure?

Maja Ilic MD

Maja Ilic, MD

Epilepsy is a group of related disorders characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures. A seizure is usually an unprovoked disturbance of consciousness, behavior, emotion, motor function or sensation as a result of the abnormal, excessive electrical activity in the brain.

Because of this, seizures can affect any process coordinated or managed by your brain. Seizure signs and symptoms may include:

  • Temporary confusion
  • A staring spell
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Psychic symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time, so the symptoms will be similar from episode to episode. However, not all people who have seizures have epilepsy.

While many types of stereotypical, repetitive behaviors may suggest a seizure, a neurology specialist or epileptologist should establish whether or not these are seizures and epilepsy.

The following tips will help you or someone you love who has epilepsy:

  • Always carry medical identification. If an emergency happens, knowledge of your seizure disorder can help the people around you provide the appropriate treatment.
  • Remember to take your antiepileptic medication and get enough sleep.
  • Make sure your family, friends and co-workers know what to expect when you have a seizure, how to provide first aid and when it is necessary to call for emergency help.
  • Be alert to possible drug interaction between your antiepileptic medications and other medications you may be taking, including over-the-counter drugs. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure what interaction could occur before taking any new medication.
  • Choose your sports and other activities wisely. You may want to avoid contact sports, especially if your seizures are not well-controlled.

Activities such as baseball, bike riding, swimming, horseback riding or hockey can be made safer by wearing protective gear and life jackets, and by having another person with you.

What to do if someone is having a seizure

  • Help the person into a lying position.
  • Turn the person onto his/her side as soon as possible to help breathing.
  • Do not put anything into the person’s mouth or force anything between his/her teeth.
  • Clear the area around the person’s body of hard or sharp objects.
  • Remove glasses and loosen any tight clothing.
  • Do not try to restrain the person — you cannot stop the seizure and you may even injure him/her.
  • As the person is typically disoriented and confused after a seizure, stay with the person until he/she is fully alert, let the person rest or sleep, and be reassuring.
  • It is not always necessary to call for medical help. However, consider calling 911 if a seizure:

— lasts longer than 5-10 minutes
— the person is not breathing
— the person is injured or pregnant
— the person has diabetes or a heart condition
— the seizure occurred in water and the person may have inhaled water  

If you or someone you love is having seizures, come see me

If you are experiencing seizures, please make an appointment with my Westchester Health Pediatrics Sub-Specialty office to see me by calling (914) 241-3335.

By Maja Ilic, MD, Pediatric Neurologist and Epileptologist with Westchester Health Pediatrics.



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About the Author: ML Ball