Seizure first aid

Seizure first aid

Find out what to do if your child has a seizure. 

Key points to remember about seizure first aid

  • stay calm - remember the seizure will stop
  • turn your child on their side so they will not choke on saliva or vomit
  • time the seizure - if it lasts more than 5 minutes call an ambulance (dial 111 in New Zealand)

What should I do during my child's seizure?

Try to stay calm - remember the seizure will stop. 

Try to stay calm - remember it will stop. Your child is not going to die and it is not damaging their brain.

Clear a safe space around your child and protect their head if there are jerking movements. You may need to lie them down on the floor (or move furniture away from them). 

Turn your child on their side so they will not choke on saliva or vomit. You may need to wait until the jerking stops to do this.

Try to take note of the time the seizure started. If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes call an ambulance. 

Loosen tight clothing.

Do not put your fingers or anything else in or near your child's mouth - your child may bite your fingers as part of the seizure.

Do not try to stop your child's movements.

You do not need to worry about your child swallowing their tongue. This does not happen.

Turn your child on their side so they will not choke on saliva or vomit.

Stay with your child

Stay with your child during the seizure and until they are back to normal. Tell them quietly that you are right beside them and you will keep them safe.

When should I dial 111?

Dial 111 if your child has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes.

Dial 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help if your child:

  • has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes
  • has 2 or more seizures in a row without waking properly between them
  • has had a head injury, or another injury during the seizure

Emergency seizure medicine

If your child has had a seizure that lasted longer than 5 minutes in the past, the doctor may give you a medicine to stop a seizure. You can give this to your child for a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes. 

Video your child if you can

If you can, or there is someone with you, try to get a video of the seizure with your phone to show your doctors.

See Keeping a record of seizures.

What should I do after my child's seizure?

Once the seizure is over, let your child rest for a while. They may remain confused, feel strange and experience sore muscles or have a headache for some time afterwards.

If your child has bitten their tongue, paracetamol and an ice block can be helpful (when they are awake enough to have them). When giving paracetamol, follow the dosage instructions on the bottle. It is dangerous to give more than the recommended dose.

Write down the details of what happened to your child (before and during the seizure) so that you can remember what to tell your doctor.

When do I need to see a doctor for my child who's had a seizure?

If you think your child has had a seizure for the first time, you should see a doctor urgently.

If your child has had a previous seizure and has another one, but has fully recovered, you don't usually need to call a doctor immediately or call an ambulance.

Do tell your family doctor that your child has had another seizure. Your family doctor can then tell the specialists. 

The content on this page has been developed and approved by the Paediatric Neurology Clinical Network, Paediatric Society New Zealand. 

This page last reviewed 05 April 2018.
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