What to do if someone has an Epileptic Fit

It’s Saturday afternoon and it’s our street party and everything is very jolly.  The road is closed, the sun shining and drink is flowing very freely — perhaps a bit too freely for some! When suddenly I notice that one of the older guys has collapsed in his seat. He is having what looks like an epileptic  fit.

Of course, having run Safe and Sound  for 15 years I know exactly what to do. And calmly get him onto the floor, put something under his head, clear a space and let him continue with his fit before putting him in the recovery position.

It was an interesting exercise for me to  see just how few people there – and we were probably around 75 people  — knew what to do.

As the first person on scene in such an incident you need to follow the procedure that you have been taught on your first aid course.  There will be other untrained people around  who think they know what to do and will be trying to tell you.  I had a lady shouting very loudly that I needed to put something in his mouth to make sure he didn’t swallow his tongue and she kept shoving a spoon into my face. Really is it possible to swallow your tongue?  I think not.  But hearsay is an odd thing with first aid. Tales  have been passed down through families and internalised as truths which is why it is so important to learn basic first aid and keep your training up to date.

The old man in question had drunk far too much beer, was diabetic and epileptic and had run out of his medication. I was able to glean this information from the man sitting next to him so when the paramedic arrived in a car about 20 minutes later I could pass this on to him. Needless to say he wasn’t impressed.

So what should you do if you are with someone who is having a seizure?

While the seizure is taking place:

  • Move any dangerous objects away from the casualty so they don’t further endanger themselves.
  • Protect the head with something preferably soft and if nothing is available use your hands.
  • Make a note of how long the seizure lasts – start and finish time
  • Loosen any tight clothing that might be around the neck to help them to breathe
  • Call 999/112 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes (or if it is 2 minutes longer than is normal for that person. Obviously you would not know this if they were a stranger). Also call for help if they have a second seizure, injure themselves, or if this is their first seizure.

After the seizure:

  • Check that their  airway and breathing is normal
  • Place the casualty in  the recovery position
  • Move other people out of the way before they wake  to protect their modesty and embarrassment
  • Call 999/112 if you are not able to wake them after 5 minutes.
  • Keep monitoring their airway and breathing.
  • If they stop breathing start CPR


For more information about first aid courses in your area call us on 0208 445 8998 or go to www.safeandsound.uk.net