First aid for simple partial & complex partial seizures


In part three of our first aid for seizures blog series, our Helpline and Information Officer Stuart Macgee looks at first aid for simple partial and complex partial seizures.

A simple partial seizure affects one area of the brain. What happens during the seizure depends upon the area of the brain involved.

The person may feel an unusual movement (such as twitching in an arm) or experience a sensation or vision (like seeing strange colours).

Also, they may feel ‘dreamy’, sick or experience emotions such as fear or anger. These feelings are usually short-lived.

People who have simple partial seizures know the seizure is happening but can’t stop it. They can be frightening as the person remains fully conscious during the seizure.

Some people get a simple partial seizure immediately before a different type of seizure, like a tonic-clonic. In this case, it is known as an aura or seizure warning.

This sometimes enables a person to make themselves safe before the next seizure begins.


What to do if someone has a simple partial seizure:

  • stay with the person
  • give support until the seizure has passed
  • speak quietly and be reassuring
  • help the person to a safe place in case a different type of seizure follows.

Simple partial seizures


First aid for complex partial seizures

A complex partial seizure affects more of the brain than a simple partial seizure, but not enough for the person to completely lose consciousness.

The person may experience strange or unusual feelings and lose awareness. Also, 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 odd or unusual way. This could involve behaviour like smacking their lips, plucking at clothes or moving aimlessly or compulsively around a room.

People having a complex partial seizure may be mistaken for being drunk or on drugs.

Unlike simple partial seizures, there will be some loss of awareness. They may not be aware of common dangers like busy roads or boiling water.


What to do if someone has a complex partial seizure:

  • gently keep the person safe
  • do not restrain or move the person unless they are in danger
  • let the seizure run its natural course
  • calmly and quietly reassure the person afterwards.

In the final part of our first aid for seizures blog series, we will be looking at first aid for more complicated epilepsy.

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