When to call an Ambulance

Seeing someone have a seizure can be very frightening and instinctively many people call an ambulance. However, this is not always necessary.

An uncomplicated tonic-clonic seizure in someone who has epilepsy is not a medical emergency, even though it may look like one. It stops naturally after a few minutes without ill effects. The average person is able to continue about his/her business after a rest period, and may need only limited (or no) assistance in resuming their normal activities. It may be worth checking if the person is wearing medical ID to determine if the person has pre-existing epilepsy.

Call an ambulance if ANY of the following cases:

  • If you believe it's the person's first seizure
  • If the seizure continues for more than five minutes. Prolonged seizures (known as status epilepticus) can be very dangerous and if untreated, can lead to brain damage and potentially death.
  • If one seizure follows another without the person regaining awareness between the seizures
  • If the person has breathing difficulties or has become injured during the seizure
  • If you believe the person needs urgent medical attention or if you are in any doubt about the person's well-being

Note that there are medical conditions other than epilepsy that can cause seizures. If you believe that the seizure is caused by any of the following, you should call an ambulance.

  • diabetes
  • poisoning
  • brain infections
  • hypoglycemia
  • heat exhaustion or high fever
  • pregnancy
  • head injury