Emergency advice

Seizures in adults:

  1. Don’t restrain them.
  2. Place padding around them.
  3. Loosen clothing.
  4. Once stopped place in the recovery position.
  5. Call 999.

What are seizures and what causes seizures?

In adults, the most common cause of a seizure, also known as a convulsion or fit, is epilepsy. However, it can be caused by other things, including a head injury, alcohol poisoning, lack of oxygen, after taking certain drugs, or if someone with diabetes has a 'hypo' where their blood glucose is too low.

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and can cause repeated seizures, which are often sudden and dramatic.

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • sudden loss of responsiveness
  • a rigid body with an arching back
  • noisy, difficult breathing
  • grey blue tinge on the lips
  • start of jerky uncontrolled movements (uncontrolled)
  • saliva at the mouth, possibly blood stained if they have bitten their tongue or lip
  • loss of bladder or bowel control.

What to do

  1. Seizures adult - clear away any potentially dangerous objects

    With any seizure, it is important to first protect the casualty from harming themselves during the fit. Ask any bystanders to stand back and clear away any potentially dangerous objects, like hot drinks or sharp objects. Make a note of the time that the seizure started.

    • Do not restrain the casualty or move them unless they are in immediate danger.
    • Do not put anything in their mouth.
  2. Seizures adult - protect their head with soft padding

    Protect their head. You could place soft padding underneath it, such as a rolled-up towel. You should also loosen any clothing around their neck.

  3. Seizures adult - when movements have stopped, open airway and check breathing

    When any jerky movements have stopped, open their airway and check their breathing.

  4. Seizures adult - monitor their level of response

    Monitor their level of response and make a note of how long the seizure lasted.

    • If they become unresponsive at any time, prepare to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and give CPR.
  5. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    Call 999 or 112 for emergency help if:

    • it is the casualty’s first seizure
    • they are having repeated seizures
    • the cause of the seizure is unknown
    • the seizure continues for more than five minutes
    • the casualty is unresponsive for more than 10 minutes
    • they have an injury on another part of the body.

Related first aid advice

When to call an ambulance

At some point in their life, most people will witness or be involved in an accident or medical emergency. Knowing what to do and when you should call the emergency services can potentially save lives.

How to put an adult in the recovery position

It’s safe to place someone in the recovery position who is not responding to you but is breathing normally. Learn what to do.

How to do CPR on an adult

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support