A tonic-clonic seizure is one of the common forms of generalized seizure. Once this seizure occurs, the body turns rigid due to the strong muscular contractions and the individual loses consciousness and falls. The chest muscles contract and drive air out of the mouth.
The jaw muscles contract and there is a risk for biting the tongue. Saliva can escape from the mouth while the bladder contracts and pass out urine. This tonic phase eventually passes into the shaking or clonic phase. This occurs once the muscles repeatedly contract and relax which lasts for a few seconds up to minutes.
Once the seizure stops, the individual gradually gains consciousness but appears confused and dazed. There is also warning indication before a seizure occurs which is called an aura. This can manifest in various forms such as odd sensations, movements or intense emotions.
What to do during a tonic-clonic seizure?
- Note down the time the seizure started.
- Try to prevent other people from crowding over the individual.
- Place a cushion under the head to prevent head injury.
- Do not attempt to restrain the individual. If an aura is present before an episode, it might be possible to assist the individual to a safe area or cushion a fall to the ground. Once a seizure starts, do not attempt to hold the individual upright but let him/her lie down.
- Avoid moving the individual unless in a dangerous area. If possible, move any dangerous objects away from the individual.
- Do not place anything into the mouth or try to move the tongue.
What to do when a seizure has stopped?
- Try to roll the individual on his/her side into the recovery position.
- Check if the breathing returns to normal. It is normal for breathing to pause for a brief period during the stiff or clonic phase of the seizure and the face turns pale or bluish. During the clonic phase, the breathing is erratic. After the seizure stops, breathing returns to normal. If not, check if there is an obstruction with breathing.
- Remain with the individual and provide reassurance until fully recovered. It might take some time for the individual to fully wake up. Do not leave him/her alone while dazed or confused.
- Do not provide the individual with anything to eat or drink until fully recovered.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on tonic-clonic seizure is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage seizures including the tonic-clonic type by taking a standard first aid course with Ottawa First Aid.