Seizures are common in children and adults of all ages. At least 1 million Americans¹ have uncontrolled epilepsy. While attacks can occur in those with epilepsy, they can also occur in people without epilepsy through the excessive discharge of neurons in the brain.
If you or a loved one experiences seizures, it’s essential to know what to do to ensure quick recovery after a seizure.
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If this isn’t the first seizure you experienced, keeping a seizure diary is helpful. It allows you to record the details of an attack and any other useful information you can give to a health professional.
A seizure diary can also help identify possible triggers, ensure compliance with medication, and track possible medication side effects.
Make a note of details, including:
How long the seizure lasted
What you were doing before the seizure
Whether a change in their skin color or complexion occurred before the seizure
If a significant mood change occurred directly before the seizure
If there was a loss of consciousness during the seizure
If any twitching, stiffening of the limbs, change in breathing, or bowel movements were observed during the seizure
Whether medications were taken as prescribed
Presence of possible triggers, such as sleep deprivation, alcohol intake, and illicit drugs, among others
When someone has a seizure, maneuvering them around can be scary. However, getting them in the optimal seizure recovery position² is crucial to maintain airway flow and prevent them from injuring themselves after the seizure is over.
The goal of a generalized tonic-clonic or grand mal seizure is to prevent injuries. First, cushion their head with a pillow if they’re on a hard surface, like a wooden floor.
Check if any tight item is around the neck—like a tie, scarf, or heavy accessory—which can impact breathing. If so, remove or loosen it carefully.
Only after the convulsions and spasms stop should you move the person into the optimal seizure recovery position:
With the person lying on their back, kneel to one side
Move the arm closest to you at a right angle to their body, with the elbow bent and palm facing up
Move the other arm so the back of their hand rests on the cheek closest to you
Gently place your hand under the knee furthest from you and pull it up, so their leg is bent and their foot is placed flat on the ground
Slowly pull their knee toward you so they roll over facing you
Move the bent leg closer to the floor and in front of their body
Gently raise their chin and tilt their head back slightly, checking that no obstructions, like food, are in their mouth
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy or just had a one-off seizure, it’s essential to seek professional psychiatric support.
If you’re supporting a loved one with epilepsy, you’ll also want to encourage them to seek help. This can include a health professional, a therapist, or someone who can provide other psychological treatments for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. These are common among those with epilepsy.
A recent study³ found that self-management and psychological interventions benefited adult participants with epilepsy because they improved emotional well-being and overall quality of life.
During a seizure, the person may have been convulsing, twitching, scratching, and spasming, which can lead to self-injury. Applying soothing balms to the appropriate areas can speed skin recovery and heal inflammation.
A common symptom of seizures is lip, cheek, and tongue biting. This can cause bleeding and intense pain in the mouth area.
Numerous ointments and gels to reduce pain can be bought from pharmacies or even prescribed by a healthcare provider. You can also help the person rinse their mouth with a saltwater solution to encourage wound healing.
While some people recover from a seizure in minutes, it may take a few hours for others. After a seizure, the person may be disoriented as they begin to regain awareness. Keeping calm and reassuringly talking to them can enhance recovery.
Once they are alert and able to communicate clearly, you can explain what happened in simple terms. A person coming out of a seizure can be overwhelmed or embarrassed, so it's important to be as sensitive and supportive as possible.
Supporting an individual after a seizure can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Several tips can be applied to hasten recovery after a seizure and ensure optimum safety and reduced risk of injury.
While these tips can enhance the recovery process, checking in with a healthcare professional after a seizure, even if it’s a one-off, is advisable to rule out any underlying health conditions. This is especially important if it’s a repeating or prolonged seizure with significant post-seizure symptoms.
You can’t force recovery from a seizure; you can only take the necessary steps to increase the chances of a rapid recovery.
To increase the speed of recovery over the following days, drink plenty of water, eat well-balanced and nutritious meals, have a good night’s sleep, remove people or situations from your life that create unnecessary stress, and—if recommended by your doctor—take multivitamins.
First of all, don’t panic. Talk to them in a low, controlled manner and only move them into the recovery position until the convulsions have stopped.
Keep other people and objects out of the way, don’t put anything in their mouths, and don’t try to hold them down or stop the seizure.
During a seizure, you may lose consciousness or awareness paired with jerking movements of the legs and arms. You may also have emotional symptoms, including fear and anxiety.
If you feel a seizure coming on, ensure the surrounding area is free from dangerous or sharp objects so you don’t hurt yourself during the attack.
Facts & statistics about epilepsy | Epilepsy Foundation
Recovery position | NHS