What to do when someone is having a seizure

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Patrick Mattoon, a student at Guilford Technical Community College, has never been a “math” type of guy.

“I don’t know, just kind of been an artistic person,” he said as he worked on homework.

However, over the years, he gravitated more towards his creative side. He hopes to one day work in graphic design.

“That electronic easel thing is where you can kind of draw with your hands,” said Mattoon, with eyes glued to his computer screen.

About a year ago, Mattoon had a pretty serious medical scare. While out to eat with his dad he had his first seizure.

“It came at me all of sudden and I had just a little bit of a headache that day,” he said. "During it I had no idea what was going on because I couldn't think straight even when I got to the hospital I didn't know what happened.”

Months later, it happened again while he was waiting for the bus. He had his second seizure.

“I blacked out quicker there than I did with the first seizure,” Mattoon said.

He still doesn't know what caused them. However, Dr. Karen Aquino says seizures like his happen in public places often.

“So anything that causes irritation in the brain can potentially lead to seizures,” she explained. "It can happen anywhere. There are three million Americans with epilepsy.”

Epilepsy is a common cause, however, there’s one big question.

What can you do if you're out and see someone having a seizure?

“The first thing to do is to ease them to the floor if you're able to make sure their head is protected,” Aquino demonstrated.

You want to have something that is soft and flat to lay their head on.

“Turn them on their side to protect their airway. It usually ends in two minutes,” she said as she finished the demonstration.

It is also good to be there to calmly talk the person through even after it's done.

“Seizures, even if they look frightening, they are not always a medical emergency,” Aquino said.

If a seizure lasts longer than a few minutes you typically want to call 911.

There is a common misconception that a person having a seizure will swallow their tongue, but that is not the case and experts say you shouldn’t put anything in their mouths.