If your client appears to be having a seizure, follow these basic first aid measures*. Every situation will be different.
During the seizure:
- Stay calm. Time the length of the shaking phase of the seizure.
- If the person is sitting in a chair, gently place him or her on the floor if possible. If the person is lying on a massage table, allow the person to remain on the table. Some therapists place pillows on the floor around the length of the massage table as a safety measure. Move other objects away to prevent injury.
- Place a cushion or soft jacket (something soft and flat) under the person’s head to keep it inclined to protect the head during the shaking phase of the seizure.
- Roll the person onto his or her side if possible. This position will allow saliva to fall out of the mouth instead of blocking the airway, causing the person to choke.
- Remain with the person until the seizure has ended.
After the seizure has ended:
- Help the person back to normal awareness by asking a few simple questions, such as what his or her name & the location. Use a calm & reassuring voice.
- Be sure your client is safe. If he or she has bitten the tongue or cheek, those areas may be sore. If the person experienced incontinence, be sensitive, helpful & provide assistance if needed.
The person may feel tired, confused, & have no memory of the event. He or she may also complain of a headache or general muscle soreness.The post-seizure period is called the postictal state & can last from several minutes to several hours.
When to CALL 911:
- If it is the person’s first seizure or if you do not know.
- If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes or immediately repeats; or if the person cannot be awakened after the seizure.
- If the person is injured or vomits during the seizure.
- If the person has a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, congestive heart failure, or is pregnant.
Inform emergency medical services (EMS) how long the seizure lasted & the symptoms exhibited.
Things NOT to do during or after a seizure:
- Do not restrain the person; this may provoke an aggressive response.
- Do not put anything in the person’s mouth.
- Do not give the person water, food, or medicine until the seizure is over and he or she is alert.
* Adapted from the (1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2) Epilepsy Action, and the (3) Epilepsy Society.
Check out this blog for information about seizure disorders.
Articles and Journals Referenced:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Seizure first aid. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/basics/first-aid.htm
- Epilepsy Action: What to do when someone has a seizure. Available at https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/firstaid
- Epilepsy Society: 10 first aid steps. Available at https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/10-first-aid-steps-for-convulsive-seizures#.WHy_6fXrsYU
Susan is a board certified massage therapist with 30+ years of experience. Susan is passionate about massage therapy and massage education. You can contact her at email@example.com.