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Epilepsy and First Aid for Seizures

What is the best first aid for a seizure? Here are some tips if you or someone you love has epilepsy.

  • Always carry medical identification. If an emergency happens, knowledge of your seizure disorder can help the people around you keep you safe and provide the appropriate treatment.
  • Make sure your family, friends, and co-workers know what to do if you have a seizure. (See below.)
  • Avoid potential dangers of high places or moving machinery at home, school, or work if you have active seizures. Though there is less risk if your seizures are under control, you should focus on the specific risks of certain activities (such as mowing, working around farm machinery, hot appliances, etc.).
  • It is important for you to stay active, but you should choose your sports and other activities wisely. You may want to avoid contact sports, but if your seizures are well controlled, you can lead a normal life. The buddy system works well, so have another person with you who knows you have seizures and what to do if you have one. Activities such as baseball, bike riding, canoeing, horseback riding, or hockey can be made safer by wearing helmets and life jackets and by having another person with you -- but this is true for all people.
  • If you take anticonvulsant medication, do not suddenly stop taking it or change the dosage without consulting your doctor. The type of anticonvulsant medication you are prescribed depends on the type of epilepsy you have, and the dose is determined by your weight, age, gender, and other factors.
  • Be alert to the risks of possible drug interactions between your anticonvulsant drugs and other medications you may take, including over-the-counter drugs. Always call your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure what interactions could occur before taking any medication. Most pharmacists will do this for you, and the Internet has many excellent drug interaction checkers.
  • Avoid alcohol, as it can interfere with the effectiveness of your medication and may lower the brain's seizure threshold.

What Should I Do for a Person Who Is Having a Seizure?

If someone is having a seizure:

  • Loosen clothing around the person's neck.
  • Do not try to hold the person down or restrain them. This can result in injury.
  • Do not insert any objects in the person's mouth. This can also cause injury.
  • Reassure concerned bystanders who may be upset and ask them to give the person room.
  • Remove sharp objects (glasses, furniture, and other objects) from around the person to prevent injury.
  • After the seizure, it is helpful to lay the person on their side to maintain an open airway and prevent the person from inhaling any secretions.
  • After a seizure, the person may be confused and should not be left alone.
  • In many cases, especially if the person is known to have epilepsy, it is not necessary to call 911. 
  • Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, or if another seizure begins soon after the first, or if the person cannot be awakened after the movements have stopped. If you are concerned that something else may be wrong, or the person has another medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes, you should contact a doctor immediately.
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