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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

When to Call A Doctor

Anyone who has a seizure for the first time needs to be evaluated by a medical professional. For people with epilepsy who have a brief, self-limited seizure, it's not necessary to call a doctor or go to an emergency room following an isolated seizure. However, you should seek emergency care under the after circumstances:

  • If the patient does not completely return to his or her normal state after the seizure and post-seizure period, which generally lasts less than 30 to 60 minutes

  • If the seizure itself lasts for more than a few minutes

  • If the patient has multiple seizures

  • If an injury was sustained during the seizure

If you are near a person having a tonic-clonic seizure (grand mal, convulsion), help the person lie down and turn him or her onto one side. Place something soft under the person's head, and loosen tight clothing. Do not restrain the person's arms or legs, and do not put anything into the person's mouth. Forcing something into the mouth may cause more harm than good. The seizure should last less than one to two minutes.

If you are near a person who is having a complex partial seizure, stay with the person, talk calmly, and protect him or her from self-injury. Do not restrain him or her. The person may be able to respond to simple commands, such as, "Sit down." If necessary after the seizure, explain where you are and what has happened.

Page 7 of 9     Next Page:  Seizure Prognosis
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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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