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A seizure is an electrical disturbance in the brain.

A person with epilepsy suffers from recurrent seizures.

Who can have Epilepsy?

Anyone can develop epilepsy, at any time of life. It happens in people of all ages, races and social classes. Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in children and in people over 65. There are over half a million people with epilepsy in the UK, so around 1 in 100 people.

why do seizures happen?

Your brain controls the way you function. Inside your brain, millions of nerve cells (neurones) pass electrical signals to each other. During a seizure these electrical signals are disrupted and this affects how you feel or what you do while the seizure is happening.

It is understandable that you may want to know what is causing your seizures, but sometimes it can be hard to find out why seizures start. Sometimes there is a clear cause for seizures, for example, if someone has damage to their brain from a difficult birth, or an infection such as meningitis, a stroke or a head injury.

Facts about seizures

Most seizures happen suddenly without warning, last a short time (a few seconds or minutes) and stop by themselves.

  • Seizures can be different for each person.
  • Just knowing that someone has epilepsy does not tell you what their epilepsy is like, or what seizures they have.
  • Calling seizures ‘major’ or ‘minor’ does not tell you what happens to the person during the seizure. The names of seizures used on this page describe what happens during the seizure.
  • Some people have more than one type of seizure, or their seizures may not fit clearly into the types described on this page. But even if someone’s seizures are unique, they usually follow the same pattern each time they happen.
  • Not all seizures involve convulsions (jerking or shaking movements). Some people seem vacant, wander around or are confused during a seizure.
  • Some people have seizures when they are awake, called ‘awake seizures’. Some people have seizures while they are asleep, called ‘asleep seizures’ (or ‘nocturnal seizures’). The names ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’ do not explain the type of seizures, only when they happen.
  • Injuries can happen during seizures, but many people don’t hurt themselves and don’t need to go to hospital or see a doctor.

Common triggers include:

Not taking medicine that controls it

Lack of Sleep

Alcohol and drugs


Flashing and flickering lights


Absence seizures

  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Twitching, lip smacking, staring blankly
Major seizures
  • Casualty loses consciousness
  • Rigid arching of the back
  • Breathing becomes difficult
  • Casualty begins to jerk violently
Epilepsy 2


Absence seizures

  • Reassure the casualty – allow them to recover in their own time

Major seizures

  • Ensure the area around is free from danger
  • Cushion their head – do NOT restrain them
  • Time the seizure
  • When the casualty comes out the seizure check breathing, for injures and place in recovery position and monitor
  • Call 999/112 if its the First seizure, lasts more than 5 minutes, they have repeated seizures, they become injured during the seizure or is unconscious for more than 10 minutes

This guidance is great but no substitute for a practical First Aid course.

We teach Epilepsy in more detail on the following courses.

TQUK Level 3 Award in Emergency First Aid at Work

TQUK Level 3 Award in Paediatric First Aid

TQUK Level 3 Award in Emergency Paediatric First Aid 

TQUK Level 3 Award in First Aid at Work


To book any course NDA First Aid Training Ltd offer simply click here

You can also contact us in the following ways:

Telephone: 01494 958547