How to Help Someone Having a Seizure

Monday 13th February 2023 is International Epilepsy Day. This is an annual event which aims to raise awareness of epilepsy and its impact. The event is organised by the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) and the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE).


This year, International Epilepsy Day will focus on the stigma associated with epilepsy. Several free Epilepsy Facts and Myths resources are available to help spread awareness.


As an accreditation body specialising in health and social care, we want to take this opportunity to educate the public. Please note this article seeks to provide a general awareness of epilepsy. This is not official guidance for health and social care professionals.


First, let’s explain what epilepsy means.


Epilepsy is a disease of the brain that results in abnormal electrical activity in the brain. People with epilepsy tend to experience recurrent seizures.


There are several known causes of epilepsy:

  • Stroke
  • Brain infection, e.g. meningitis
  • Head injury
  • Complications during birth
  • Brain tumours
  • Brain malformations
  • Brain development problems
  • Genetics (potentially, the link between genetics and epilepsy is currently being researched)


How to recognise a seizure


Seizures can be categorised as motor or non-motor. Motor seizures include:



This is what most people would think of when they hear the word “seizure”. These take place in phases:

  • Prodromal: tiredness, weakness, potential aura (certain smell or image)
  • Tonic: rigid muscles, fall to the ground, abnormal breathing, blue lips
  • Clonic: jerking movements, biting tongue or cheeks, potential dribble or incontinence
  • Postictal: exhaustion lasting from minutes to hours, potential myoclonic



These are brief seizures that often occur in the recovery phase of other seizures. Jerking of limbs or part of a limb takes place.


These often occur without warning. Muscles become rigid and the breath is held for a short time.


These are brief seizures causing floppy muscles and potential falls.


Non-motor seizures include:


Typical absence
More common in children, this type of seizure can easily be mistaken for daydreaming. The person becomes unaware of what is happening around them. They may nod, stare blankly, or flutter their eyelids. These seizures last a few seconds.


Atypical absence
The person’s muscles become limp or floppy during these seizures. Atypical absences last longer than typical absences. These occur at any age and are common in people with other conditions affecting the brain.


How to help someone who is having a motor seizure


If you see a friend, family member, colleague, or a member of the public showing signs of a motor seizure, here is what to do: