Focal aware seizures with impaired awareness

First aid for focal seizures with impaired awareness

Seizure first aid is one of the most effective measures anyone can take to keep a person safe during and after a seizure.

We want to make everyone aware of what to do, so they can help someone who is having a seizure and potentially save someone’s life.

In this blog, we look at first aid for focal seizures with impaired awareness.


What is a focal seizure with impaired awareness?

A focal seizure with impaired awareness used to be known as a complex partial seizure. It affects a bigger part of the brain than a focal aware seizure, but not enough for the person to completely lose consciousness.

The person may experience strange or unusual feelings and be unresponsive. They may lose their sense of time and appear distant from what is happening and who is around them.

This type of seizure can make someone behave in an unusual way. This could involve behaviour like smacking their lips, plucking at clothes, or moving aimlessly or compulsively around a room.

People having a focal seizure with impaired awareness can sometimes be mistaken for being drunk or drugs. Unlike focal aware seizures, there is always some loss of awareness.

There is a risk of injury depending on what the person was doing at the time before the seizure. If, for example, the person was ironing just before the seizure, they could end up with serious burns injuries as automatic and repetitive movements often kick in during such a seizure.


What to do if someone has a focal seizure with impaired awareness

  • Keep the person safe


  • Allow the person to move as long as it is safe to do so. If the person is in danger, for example, if they want to cross a busy road while in the seizure, gently steer away from the danger, only hold back if this is necessary to keep the person safe


  • Talk to the person calmly during the seizure


  • Reassure and help reorientate the person after the seizure.

For more information, please check out our first aid for seizures factsheet by clicking here.