How To Treat a Seizure

10 Steps to Treat a Patient with Epilepsy

woman having a seizure
Seizures often look worse than they are. Science Photo Library / Getty Images

In most cases, seizures are not life-threatening and are relatively easy to manage. Most adolescent or adult seizure patients suffer from epilepsy. In some cases, seizures can be caused by other medical conditions or trauma. You should always be concerned if the seizure immediately follows an injury to the head; if the patient is pregnant; or if the patient has diabetes.

Seizures in children are often caused by high fever and are called febrile seizures. Management for a febrile seizure may be different than for seizures caused by epilepsy or other seizure disorders. It is important to cool the patient during a febrile seizure.


  1. Remain calm. Anxiety is contagious, but so is serenity. As long as you are calm, other bystanders will follow suit.
  2. Note the time. It's important to time the seizure from the beginning of convulsions to the end of convulsions. A seizure lasting more than five minutes will be treated differently than a shorter one. Seizures look very scary and unless a clock or watch is used, it can be easy to overestimate the duration of the seizure.
  3. Clear hard or sharp objects away from the vicinity of the patient. Seizures can be violent enough to injure a patient.
  4. Loosen tight clothing around the neck, especially ties or collars. These items may restrict breathing or block the airway.
  5. Pad under the head with a pillow or rolled-up jacket.
  6. If possible, roll the patient to his or her left side. This way, sputum or vomit will drain out of the mouth away from the airway. DO NOT PUT ANYTHING IN THE PATIENT'S MOUTH! Seizure patients do not swallow their tongues.
  7. If the seizure activity (convulsions) last more than five (5) minutes, call 911.
  1. After the seizure, the patient will slowly regain consciousness, if he or she does not begin to wake up within a few minutes, call 911.
  2. If the patient stops breathing after the seizure, call 911 and begin CPR.


  1. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, Call 911 for seizures if:
    • the seizure happened in water
    • there is no way to determine the cause of the seizure (ID bracelet, etc.)
    • the patient is pregnant
    • the patient has diabetes
    • the patient is injured
    • the seizure lasts more than five (5) minutes
    • another seizure happens before the patient regains consciousness
  2. Also according to the Epilepsy Foundation, 911 does not need to be called if the patient is known to have epilepsy, the seizure ended in less than five minutes, the patient wakes up, and there are no signs of injury, physical distress, or pregnancy.
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Article Sources
  • Brophy GM, Bell R, Claassen J, Alldredge B, Bleck TP, Glauser T, Laroche SM, Riviello JJ Jr, Shutter L, Sperling MR, Treiman DM, Vespa PM, Neurocritical Care Society Status Epilepticus Guideline Writing Committee. Guidelines for the evaluation and management of status epilepticus. Neurocrit Care. 2012 Aug;17(1):3-23.