Knowing What to do When a Seizure Occurs

An important way to keep a child safe is to know what to do when a seizure occurs. Parents can make other people aware of what to do in case they are around when it happens.

Most seizures are over so fast that people do not have time to do anything at that moment. After it is over, someone needs to check to see if the child was injured. Tonic clonic seizures look the most frightening. They usually last longer than other seizures.

CPR is rarely used when a child is seizing. Take a look at the table below to review some basic information about what to do and what not to do.



  • Stay calm; most seizures last a few minutes or less.
  • Move things out of the way to prevent injuries.
  • Lay the child on one side. Loosen any tight clothing around the neck and put a pillow or something soft under the head.
  • Pay attention to the length of the seizure.
  • Keep onlookers away.
  • Be sensitive and supportive, and ask others to do the same.


  • Do not put anything in the mouth. A child might bite a tongue during a seizure. Putting something in the mouth won’t help. You could break some of the child’s teeth. You may get bitten.
  • Do not try to hold the child down. Even children have remarkable strength during seizures. Trying to hold a child down is not easy and it can cause serious injuries.
  • Do not give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation during a seizure. After it has ended, give mouth-to-mouth only if a child is not breathing.


Most seizures are not medical emergencies.

An ambulance should be called if:

  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or one seizure immediately follows another.
  • Your child does not resume normal breathing after the seizure ends.
  • Your child was seriously injured during the seizure.
  • Your child/adolescent is pregnant or has diabetes.
  • The seizure happens in water, and therefore your child may have inhaled water.
  • Do not call an ambulance during a typical seizure. For a lot of people, the first response to seeing a seizure is to call 911. But most of the time it is not needed. It is scary for a child to spend hours in the hospital. It is a shame to do that when it isn’t needed.


What happens after a seizure depends on the type of seizure, how long it was, how strong it was, and other factors.

A child could have sore muscles or a headache. There could be pain in the tongue and cheek from biting them. A child may feel confused or tired. The skin might look pale or bluish.

Some children may feel that what happens after a seizure is worse than what happens during a seizure. Sometimes medications don’t change the seizures, but they reduce things that happen after the seizure.

(printable version of table Adobe Acrobat Icon)

Please refer to the chart on the next pages for information specific to different seizure types and recommended first aid for each.


It is very important to NEVER leave your child alone in the bathtub or in the pool. Not even for a couple of seconds. This is true for all children, but is especially important for children with epilepsy. When seizures will happen is not predictable.

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