National Epilepsy Week: What Should You Do If Someone Is Having An Epileptic Seizure?

Epilepsy is estimated to affect more than 500,000 people in the UK, yet a recent survey of 2,000 British adults revealed 74% of us do not know what it is or what causes it.

The survey, conducted on behalf of Young Epilepsy, highlights the importance of National Epilepsy Awareness Week in raising understanding about the condition.

Seizures were sometimes previously referred to as "fits".

An epileptic seizure results from a sudden electrical discharge in the brain that "causes changes in sensation, behaviour or consciousness".

The severity of seizures can differ from person to person.

Some people have convulsions (uncontrollable shaking of the body) which is known as a tonic-clonic seizure. This type of seizure is what most people think of as an epileptic fit.

Others, however, simply experience a loss of awareness when having a seizure.

So, what should you do if you think a person is having a seizure?

The first and perhaps most important thing to remember, is not to panic. Try to comfort the person having a seizure and ensure they are not hurting themselves on any surrounding objects.

If you are with someone who is having a tonic-clonic seizure, the NHS recommend you take these steps:

1. Move them away from anything that could cause injury, such as a busy road or hot cooker.

2. Cushion their head if they're on the ground.

3. Loosen any tight clothing around their neck, such as a collar or tie, to aid breathing.

4. When their convulsions stop, turn them so that they're lying on their side.

5. Stay with them and talk to them calmly until they have recovered.

6. Note the time the seizure starts and finishes.

It is a myth that you should put something in a person's mouth while they are having a seizure.

"They may bite their tongue, but this will heal," the NHS says. "Putting an object in their mouth (including your fingers) could cause more damage."

People with epilepsy do not need to go to hospital every time they have a seizure, so you don't necessarily need to call an ambulance.

However, if it’s the first time someone has had a seizure, if the seizure lasts for more than five minutes or if the person doesn’t regain full consciousness, you should always dial 999.

For more information on epilepsy or seizures, visit your GP, NHS Choices or Young Epilepsy.