Washington University School of Medicine

Seizure Precautions and First Aid

by Tracy Connell, RN, MSN, CPNP

Ms. Connell is a Pediatric Epilepsy Nurse Practitioner at the Pediatric Epilepsy Center of St. Louis Children's Hospital and provides care for patients in the New Onset Seizure Clinic.

The following is a brief description of seizure first aid and seizure precautions.

Seizure First Aid

During a seizure, we first ask that everyone involved stay calm and keep the child safe. Time the seizure with a watch or clock, as most seizures seem to be a lot longer than they really are. If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, EMS needs to be called. Notice what the seizure looks like so you can give a good description to the paramedics and the child's doctor. Please DO NOT place anything in the child's mouth. They cannot swallow their tongue. If possible, gently lay the child on his side. Lastly, let the seizure run its course. Do not try to restrain the child. After the seizure is over, allow them to rest and completely recover from the seizure. Again, if the seizure does not stop after five minutes, 911 should be called. If there are any other unusual or concerning circumstances surrounding the seizure, also consider consulting medical personnel.

Seizure Precautions

These are some general precautions for children with a history of seizures or epilepsy. Discourage your child from climbing higher than 10 feet. Do not let your child take a tub bath alone, as some children have drowned in the bath during a seizure. If they are too old for supervision, they should take a shower and leave the door unlocked. There should be no unsupervised swimming; they should swim with other swimmers who are strong enough to rescue them. As with all children, children with epilepsy should wear a helmet when riding a bike or rollerblades. If your child is old enough to drive, they should not drive unless they have been seizure free for six months and you have contacted the physician. While there can't be a universal rule applicable to every possible situation and person, older children and adults also need to take reasonable precautions or restrictions with more dangerous activities, such as operating heavy machinery and playing contact sports.

Despite the above precautions, children with epilepsy should be encouraged to lead as normal a life as possible. Using common sense, there is no reason that people with epilepsy cannot participate fully in the vast majority of activities that life offers.