Mini First Aid Guide: Seizures, Fainting, and Choking

If you’ve ever witnessed someone getting a seizure in your presence you know how traumatic this experience can be, more especially if you don’t know how you can go about helping that person. Medical conditions like seizures, fainting and choking can occur at any time to almost anyone.

Sports coaches and Exercise Practitioners need to equip themselves with up to date First Aid training. This is one of those cases where it is Better to have, and not need than to need, and not have.

Although these mentioned medical conditions are rarely fatal, it helps to know how you can help the person should such a tragedy take place. Don’t wait until this person is a member of your family.

This article will provide you with the first aid guide on the conditions mentioned above so that next time, should someone experiences a seizure, faints or starts choking in your presence, you will know exactly what to do.

You don’t really need to be a doctor to help. Although it would be wise to let a doctor or a first aider help instead if there is one around! It is very important that you know what you are doing to avoid escalating the situation.


Commonly known as fits, seizures are a type of epileptic condition of the brain. Seizures are sudden, uncontrollable, electrical changes in the brain. During a seizure, a person may stare into space, have a body shaking, or in more serious cases, fall and get injured. While seizures can be frightening, in most instances they stop without intervention [1].

How to tell if it’s a seizure.

When people talk about epileptic seizures they are usually referring to tonic clonic seizures. During a tonic clonic seizure a person’s body stiffens and they fall to the ground. Their limbs then begin to jerk in strong, symmetrical, rhythmic movements. The person may dribble from the mouth, turn blue or red in the face, or lose control of their bladder and/or bowel [2]. Without getting into details about why this happens, here is what you can do if someone is getting a tonic seizure attack.

This is how you can help?

A convulsive or tonic clonic seizure starts when someone loses consciousness, stiffens unexpectedly, falls to the ground and starts jerking with the limbs.

  • You should time the seizure, if possible (It should not last more than 5 minutes).
  • Keep calm and let the person know you are there to help. Speaking softly but clearly next to their ear.
  • Protect the person from injury by removing any hard objects from the area.
  • Protect the head as best you can, place something soft underneath like a hoody or jersey.
  • Gently roll the person on their side as soon as it is possible to assist them with breathing.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
  • Calmly talk to the person until they regain consciousness. Let them know where they are, that they are safe and that you will stay with them while they recover.
  • Keep onlookers away.

What you should not do

  • Once a seizure has started, you cannot stop it. Let it run its course.
  • Do not put anything into the person’s mouth.
  • Do not restrain the person’s movements.

Once the seizure is over the person will gradually regain control and re-orients themselves without any ill effects. The majority of people diagnosed with epilepsy will have their seizures controlled with medication [2].

Contact emergency medical care if:

  • The seizure activity lasts more than 5 minutes or a second seizure quickly follows.
  • The person is pregnant.
  • The person remains non-responsive for more than 5 minutes after the seizure stops
  • The person is injured, goes blue in the face or has swallowed water.
  • If the seizure occurs in water

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Thando W. Dlamini, BA

Sport Development and Exercise Science Practitioner

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