What to Do if Your Child Has an Epileptic Seizure

Medically Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on January 12, 2023
3 min read

Most epileptic seizures are over so quickly that you don't really have much time to do anything. After it's over, you simply make sure that the child wasn't injured.

Tonic-clonic seizures are the most dramatic and frightening of the seizures, and they usually last longer than other seizures. Here are some suggestions for handling them:

  • Move things out of the way so the child won't injure themselves.
  • Loosen any tight clothing around the neck.
  • Put a pillow or something soft under the head.
  • Lay them on one side.
  • Time the seizure.
  • If the seizure continues, use a rescue medication to try and control it.

Call an ambulance about a seizure if:

  • The child was injured during the seizure.
  • The child may have inhaled water.
  • The seizure lasted longer than five minutes.
  • There is no known history of seizures.
  • The child seems to have difficulty breathing, turns blue, or stops breathing.

Things not to do during a seizure:

  • Don't put anything in the mouth. First of all, despite what you've heard, it's impossible to swallow your tongue and choke. While the child may bite their tongue during a seizure, trying to cram something in the mouth probably won't work to prevent this. You may also get bitten, or you may break some of the child's teeth or your child may break the object and choke or aspirate.
  • Don't try to hold the child down. People, even children, have remarkable muscular strength during seizures. Trying to pin a child with a seizure to the ground isn't easy and it won't do any good, anyway.
  • Don't give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the seizure is over. After the seizure has ended, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if the person is not breathing.
  • Don't call an ambulance during a typical seizure. For a lot of people, the first response to seeing a seizure is to call 911. But for the vast majority of seizures, that isn't necessary. It's also frightening for a child to spend an afternoon in the hospital unnecessarily. Instead, only call for emergency medical help if the child is injured during the seizure, turns blue or stops breathing, if the seizure lasts more than five minutes, or if it seems like one seizure is immediately following the previous one. 

Rescue Medications

Rescue medications are just what the name implies. These drugs do not take the place of daily medications and should only be used to help stop a seizure quickly in emergency situations. Depending on the circumstance, they can be administered:

  • Nasally - Sprayed up the nose
  • Orally - Swallowed in pill form 
  • Sublingually - Placed under the tongue to dissolve
  • Buccally - Placed between the cheek and the gum to dissolve
  • Rectally - Given via a gel through the anus 

The most commonly used medications are benzodiazepines because they get into the bloodstream quickly to start working on the brain to stop the seizure. They include: