What to do if someone is having a seizure

Seizures are one of the most common neurological disorders worldwide. People with seizures and epilepsy make up a higher percentage of the world’s population than people with Parkinson’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis combined. Many still avoid seizures and discussions about epilepsy because of the associated taboos and fear. So they don’t have enough knowledge about how to diagnose the symptoms and help those in need.

A seizure is a neurological condition characterized by sudden abnormal and uncontrolled neural electrical activity. It can affect a person’s consciousness, memory, behavior and motor skills. Sometimes attacks show signs and symptoms, and other times they are silent. Before we understand how to help a person during an epileptic seizure, we need to know how to diagnose it.

How can we determine if someone is having a seizure?

Seizures can affect people of any age, race or ethnicity. Several factors can trigger epileptic seizures, including disrupted neurotransmitters, stress, high fever, injuries, illnesses, or brain tumors. The symptoms can vary depending on the type of attack. The following are the general warning signs and symptoms of a seizure episode:

    • Sudden twitching or jerky movements of the upper and lower extremities
    • stiffening of the body
    • Sudden fall associated with unconsciousness
    • Not responding to words or sounds or for a short period of time
    • Loss of bladder and bowel control
    • Continuous staring at an object nearby or in the blank
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Confusion and loss of awareness of the environment
    • visions or sounds hallucinations

How can we help a person during a seizure episode?

It’s critical to be aware of the signs and symptoms of an impending seizure when you’re with someone who has a history of seizures. With a little understanding, you can help people during a seizure episode, such as:

  • Move the patient to a safe place:

If a person is having an epileptic episode, move him or her away from a dangerous area so that he or she cannot be injured by a sudden bump or injury. Place them on a flat surface and support them, but don’t move them quickly. Remove additional assistive devices, such as hearing aids or glasses. Loosen any clothing that is tight and may restrict their breathing.

  • Turn the person on their side:

Turn the patient on their side, as the patient may drool or vomit, which could cause them to suffocate. During an attack, a person’s saliva or food particles flow backwards, which can cause airway obstruction. Rolling onto the side helps keep their airways clear.

  • Try not to put anything in their mouth:

A famous old wives’ tale suggests that putting an object in the mouth during an attack can help restore them. But that’s something you should avoid. The patient can bite off a piece and choke. Do not put your finger or hand in their mouth as they may bite your hand. Also, do not attempt CPR during a seizure episode, as the patient may start breathing on their own after the seizure.

  • Don’t try to hold them:

Restraining the person during a convulsion may cause physical injury. Record the timing of the seizure: Make notes about the timing of the seizure episode onset, how long it lasted, and what the symptoms were. This information is crucial and can help paramedics with proper management later on.

  • Call an emergency helpline:

In general, an epileptic seizure lasts a few minutes, but call the emergency helpline immediately for further needs in the following circumstances:

  • If the attack lasts longer than five minutes
  • Person is pregnant
  • A person experiences shortness of breath or the cessation of breathing occurs.
  • Another convulsion begins before the person regains consciousness.
  • Every injury happens
  • A seizure in the water
  • A person has left food or vomit in the mouth


Once the attack is over, a person may feel confused, exhausted, thirsty, sick, have a headache, feel anxious, or lose control of the bowels or bladder. So stay with them until they become alert, communicate with them in simple language and comfort them.

Seizures are usually self-limiting and last less than three minutes. Taking these simple steps will protect the patient from serious complications.

Dr. Amit Shrivastava, Senior Consultant – Neurology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, New Delhi

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