Seizures occur when the normal electrical activity in the brain is interrupted. This interruption can occur for a variety of reasons. Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures. Other causes include:

1.         Reduced supply of oxygen to the brain.

2.         Reduced supply of glucose to the brain

3.         Drugs and alcohol.

4.         Diseases that affect the brain.

5.         Head injuries.

Seizures do not always result in the casualty dropping to the floor and convulsing. The effects of seizures can, in fact, be quite mild and result in little more than a reduction in the casualty’s levels of response and general awareness.



There are two types of seizure with very distinct characteristics.

Minor Seizures

Casualties may display the following symptoms:

1.         Reduced levels of awareness and response.

2.         Eyes remain open but unable to focus.

3.         Mild twitching movements in the limbs, head and facial features.

4.         Grinding the jaw.

5.         Moaning / groaning noises.


Action in the event of a minor seizure

1.         Get the casualty to sit down on the floor. This will help to prevent injury if the seizure should worsen and the casualty collapses.

2.         Most casualties will show full signs of recovery within a few minutes of the seizure.

3.         If the casualty does not show any signs of recovery after 10 minutes, call for an ambulance.

4.         It is rare that a major seizure follows a minor seizure. If this does occur, however, follow the advice outlined right:


Major seizures

The onset of a major seizure can usually by identified by a tensing of the casualty’s body followed by a sharp fall to the floor. Once on the floor the casualty’s back may begin to arch and the following symptoms displayed:

1.         Noisy / erratic breathing.

2.         A blue tinge around extremities such as fingertips and lips.

3.         Rapid, uncontrolled movements to the limbs.

4.         A tightening of the jaw. This may result in frothing at the mouth or bleeding due to tongue, lips and gums being bitten.

5.         Loss of bladder or bowel control.

As the casualty begins to recover they will feel confused and disoriented while their levels of awareness and response improve. It is also normal for the casualty to feel sleepy and exhausted.


Action in the event of a major seizure

1.         The casualty will almost definitely collapse during a major seizure. Try to control the fall.

2.         Ensure the safety of the casualty by removing any objects that may cause injury if they are struck.

3.         Place padding under the head of the casualty. Improvise if necessary by using clothing.

4.         DO NOT place anything in the casualty’s mouth.

5.         Loosen any clothing that may restrict the airway.

6.         When the seizure has subsided:

7.         Check the casualty’s Airway, Breathing and Circulation (ABC).

8.         If unconscious and breathing normally or semi-conscious, place the casualty in the recovery position (see opposite). Perform CPR if not breathing.

9.         Can also put a blanket over casualty to preserve modesty. Also time the seizure.

10.       Reassure the casualty whilst continuing to monitor the ABC and any other injuries.


Call for an ambulance if:

  • Any concerns with ABC’s
  • You feel unable to cope with the situation.
  • The casualty is not known as an Epilepsy sufferer and you suspect the seizure may be caused by something else such as a head injury.
  • Convulsions last for 5 minutes or more.
  • The casualty suffers from a number of smaller seizures.
  • The casualty shows no signs of recovery after 10 minutes.
  • The casualty injures him / herself.

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