Epileptic seizures are due to recurrent, major disturbances of brain activity. Just before a seizure the person affected may have a brief warning period with, for example, a strange feeling, or a particular smell or taste.

Symptoms of a minor epileptic seizure may include sudden blankness, twitching limbs and strange noises, for example, smacking of lips.

A major seizure may involve sudden loss of consciousness, absence of breathing, convulsive movements, such as jaw clenches, and the body becoming rigid.

Caring for someone during a seizure

Summon help!


  • Remove surrounding objects to prevent the patient injuring themselves
  • Remove or loosen clothing at the neck
  • Wait for the episode to pass
  • Keep a note of the length of the seizure (time in minutes)

Do not:

  • Attempt to put your fingers or anything else in the patient’s mouth
  • Attempt to control movements of the patient (restraint)
  • Attempt to sit up or lift the patient during the episode

After a seizure:

  • Turn the patient onto their side to recover
  • Check airway and clear of any saliva/blood/vomit
  • Keep patient warm
  • Allow time to recover quietly

Advice following a ‘first seizure’

Until your condition has been diagnosed and appropriate treatment begun, you should avoid circumstances where a further seizure may have serious consequences.
You may also lessen the chances of a further seizure by avoiding the risks mentioned on the opposite page.

You should not:

  • Drive a car
  • Ride a bicycle in traffic
  • Work on ladders or roofs
  • Swim alone
  • Take a bath unless someone else is around do not lock the bathroom door
  • Operate machinery

You need not be unduly anxious about the possible diagnosis of epilepsy, since this does not have to seriously limit your lifestyle.
Do see your doctor for continued investigation and appropriate care.

Advice following a seizure in a known epileptic

It is important that you take your medication, as advised by your usual doctor (GP or Hospital Consultant).

There are several things which make a seizure more likely:

  • Getting overtired
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Low blood sugar (missing or delaying meals)
  • Flashing lights (discos, prolonged computer use, flickering TV, etc)

You can lessen your likelihood of having a seizure by avoiding these things where possible.

Advice following episode of non-traumatic loss of consciousness

You or your child have attended the Emergency Department following an episode of loss of consciousness.
This may have been an epileptic seizure, but there are also other causes of such an event.
The doctor examining you will have advised you whether your attack was known to be an epileptic seizure or not.
If the diagnosis is not yet clear, you should follow the advice given for a ‘first seizure’.

Review: March 19