What to do if someone has a seizure (fit)

If you see someone having a seizure or fit, there are some simple things you can do to help. You should call an ambulance if you know it's their first seizure or it's lasting longer than 5 minutes.

It might be scary to witness, but don't panic.

If you're with someone having a seizure:

  • only move them if they're in danger  – such as near a busy road or hot cooker
  • cushion their head if they're on the ground
  • loosen any tight clothing around their neck – such as a collar or tie to – aid breathing
  • when their convulsions stop, turn them so they're lying on their side – read more about the recovery position
  • stay with them and talk to them calmly until they recover
  • note the time the seizure starts and finishes

If they're in a wheelchair, put the brakes on and leave any seatbelt or harness on. Support them gently and cushion their head, but don't try to move them.

Don't put anything in their mouth, including your fingers. They shouldn't have any food or drink until they fully recover.

When to call an ambulance

Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance if:

  • it's the first time someone has had a seizure
  • the seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes
  • the person doesn't regain full consciousness, or has several seizures without regaining consciousness
  • the person is seriously injured during the seizure

People with epilepsy don't always need to go to hospital every time they have a seizure.

Some people with epilepsy wear a special bracelet or carry a card to let medical professionals and anyone witnessing a seizure know they have epilepsy.

The charity Epilepsy Action has more information on seizures that last longer than 5 minutes.

Make a note of any useful information

If you see someone having a seizure, you may notice things that could be useful for the person or their doctor to know:

  • What were they doing before the seizure?
  • Did the person mention any unusual sensations, such as an odd smell or taste?
  • Did you notice any mood change, such as excitement, anxiety or anger?
  • What brought your attention to the seizure? Was it a noise, such as the person falling over, or body movements, such as their eyes rolling or head turning?
  • Did the seizure occur without warning?
  • Was there any loss of consciousness or altered awareness?
  • Did the person's colour change? For example, did they become pale, flushed or blue? If so, where – the face, lips or hands?
  • Did any parts of their body stiffen, jerk or twitch? If so, which parts were affected?
  • Did the person's breathing change?
  • Did they perform any actions, such as mumble, wander about or fumble with clothing?
  • How long did the seizure last?
  • Did the person lose control of their bladder or bowels?
  • Did they bite their tongue?
  • How were they after the seizure?
  • Did they need to sleep? If so, for how long?

You can watch videos of people talking about having epileptic seizures on HealthTalk.org.

Keeping a seizure diary

If you have epilepsy, it can be helpful to record the details of your seizures in a diary.

Read more about seizure diaries and download one for free from:

Page last reviewed: 05/12/2017

Next review due: 05/12/2020


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