In any emergency, using the correct first aid procedures is essential. The following guidelines detail some basic safety and first aid for dealing with grand mal seizures and dispel some common misconceptions.

What is a seizure?

Although there are many different kinds of seizures, the most widely known type – which also requires the most first aid care – is a grand mal seizure. Symptoms of a grand mal seizure include falling to the ground, difficulty breathing, and convulsive or jerking movements. The person will not be conscious of what is going on around them.


Do stay calm. Keeping a clear mind is essential to practicing correct first aid procedures. Grand mal seizures can look frightening, but will normally pass quickly without causing lasting damage to the person.

Do place a pillow or soft object under the person’s head to keep their head from hitting the ground. Alternately, cup their head in your hands, but remember not to exert force.

Do clear dangerous objects, such as furniture or anything with sharp edges, from the area.

Do stop others from crowding around the person.

Do stay with the person until they recover fully and their breathing returns to normal.

Do Not

Do not attempt to move the person unless they are in a dangerous location such as the top of a staircase or the middle of a road.

Do not place anything in the person’s mouth. Contrary to popular belief, there is no danger of a person swallowing their tongue during a seizure. In fact, inserting an object into a person’s mouth during a seizure may cause them to choke, doing more harm than good.

Do not restrain the person’s body or limbs. This can cause injuries such as dislocation, and can do more harm to the person than they would naturally do to themselves during the seizure.

Do not give the person any food or drink until they have fully recovered.

After a seizure

Help the person into the recovery position. If they have difficulty moving by themselves, roll them onto their side. If their body has stopped convulsing but their breathing is still erratic, make sure that nothing is blocking their airway. Stay with the person to ensure that their breathing remains steady, they are fully conscious, and that all convulsions have stopped.

Should I call 999?

You should call 999 if the person has injured themselves, undergone another seizure immediately following the first, or experienced difficulty breathing after the seizure. You should also call 999 if this is the person’s first seizure, or if the seizure lasts five minutes or more.

How else can I help?

If you know someone who has epilepsy, find out what kinds of seizures they have and how often, how long their seizures tend to last, what (if anything) triggers their seizures, whether they take anti-epileptic medication, and if there are any warning signs or symptoms before their seizures occur. The more information you can collect beforehand, the more prepared you will be in the event of an emergency.