What to do when someone has a seizure

When you witness someone having a seizure, it can be terrifying. Most seizures are not an emergency, and they will stop on their own without ill effects. There isn’t a great deal that you can do to stop the seizure once it has started. There are things that you can do to protect someone from injury when they suffer a seizure. It can help to know what to do and when it is the right time to call triple zero.

The different types of seizures and the degree of danger

Some seizures are more dangerous than others.

Here we talk about the two main types of seizures:

Focal onset seizures

These types of seizures will start in one single part of the brain. The arm may begin to move, or the face will start to twitch. The patient can be completely awake and aware but cannot control it. Most times, the person will zone out and start starring at nothing as the seizure begins to develop. Most people won’t remember anything after the seizure has finished.


Generalised seizures

These involve many areas of the brain. Individuals are not aware of what is happening. One of the well-known types of seizures falls into the group of generalised tonic-clonic seizures. This is also called a grand mal seizure. This type of seizure is horrifying to watch and is classed as an emergency. First aid training will help to identify this type of seizure. 



What happens?

  • The person may be unresponsive; they may not answer when they are called. The person will not react when you shake them or wave something in front of their face.
  • The muscles will clench up, and the patient will become rigid as a board. This is known as the tonic phase, and it will only last a few seconds.
  • Next will come a series of movements that convulse the person’s body. This phase is the clonic stage. It can last for either a few seconds to a few minutes.
  • Lastly, the jerking will stop, and the patient will regain consciousness. The patient may be disorientated and confused, but it should only last a few minutes.


Any generalised seizure has a danger risk because the person is unaware of their surroundings and cannot protect themselves from injury. The thrashing that occurs during the seizure can increase the chances of injury. This type of seizure needs to result in a trip to the hospital.

First aid for a seizure is more about taking precautions. You will especially need it if the patient is suffering a generalised tonic-clonic seizure.

You must:

  • Keep everyone out of the way
  • Clear sharp or hard objects away from the patient
  • Don’t constrict and hold the patient down
  • Place the person on their side to keep their airways clear
  • Check your watch and time the seizure from start to finish


The mild seizures that involve short periods of shaking or staring are not classed as emergencies. You need to move or guide the person away from anything dangerous. Things like stairs and traffic are a danger that you want the person to steer clear from. All seizure activity, big or small, needs to be reported to the person’s local doctor. Once the person appears to be back to normal offer them a glass of water and ensure that they get to where they are going safely. If the person feels unwell it is a good idea to call someone on their phone who can come and assist. A first aid CPR course is helpful for if the individual stops breathing and resuscitation becomes necessary.