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Epilepsy Safety Tips and First Aid

Know your triggers

Lifestyle can influence how often epileptic seizures happen. About one in 20 people with epilepsy is sensitive to flashing lights. Consequently, seizures can be brought on by some television programmes, video games or strobe lighting. Many more people can have seizures brought on by excessive alcohol, certain recreational drugs and lack of sleep. Stress can also increase seizure frequency.

Epilepsy safety tips

While certain high-risk situations such as mountain climbing, scuba diving and hang-gliding should usually be avoided, it's important that the life of someone with epilepsy isn't too restricted. Swimming is perfectly possible, but preferably with someone who knows about the epilepsy and what to do should a seizure occur, and the pool attendant should be informed. In the home: Showers are safer than baths, but if you do have a bath make sure it's shallow, tell someone what you're doing and leave the bathroom door unlocked. Use guards for open fires, radiators and cookers. A microwave is safer than a cooker. If you have frequent seizures involving falls, a protective helmet is advisable. Alarms triggered by falls can be useful for those living alone.

 

First aid for epilepsy

If you live or spend a lot of time with someone who has epilepsy, it's important that you know what to do in case of a seizure. Make sure you have a list of medical support and emergency contact numbers ready to hand. During any sort of seizure: Move dangerous objects away from the person having the seizure. Only move the person if they're in a dangerous place, for example in a road or the top of the stairs. Remain with them until they have fully recovered.

During a convulsion (when the muscles rhythmically tighten and relax): Check the time to monitor how long the seizure lasts, as prolonged seizures may require emergency medical help. Don't place anything in the person's mouth - there's no danger of them swallowing their tongue and you may damage their teeth. Put something soft under the person's head, such as a cushion or a jacket, to prevent injury. Don't try to restrict the convulsive movements as you may hurt the person or yourself. Make sure any tight clothing around the neck is loosened, including necklaces. After the convulsion, turn the person on to their left side and remain with them until they've fully recovered. Check that nothing is obstructing their breathing. If the convulsion lasts longer than five minutes, or if the person is having repeated convulsions, call an ambulance.

Epilepsy and driving

Seizures are still a common preventable cause of road traffic accidents. Every person who has a seizure, no matter how slight (even auras and single jerks), is obliged to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). Anyone who fails to do this and continues to drive is committing a criminal offence. Failure to inform the DVLA may also invalidate your insurance. The DVLA will generally revoke the driving licence, but will reinstate it in the following circumstances: If there have been no epileptic seizure of any sort for one year. If epileptic attacks have occurred only during sleep and this pattern has been present for at least three years. If a patient regains their driving licence but wishes to come off medication, they shouldn't drive during the changes in medication and for six months after withdrawal from medication.

Although this isn't legally binding, a seizure that occurs while coming off medication will result in a person losing their licence. The rules for those holding heavy goods and passenger-carrying vehicle licences are stricter, and it's only possible to hold these licences if you don't have a liability to epileptic seizures. This has been interpreted to mean having no epileptic seizures and taking no anti-epileptic medication during the previous ten years and there being no evidence of a continuing risk of seizures. Epilepsy at work Epilepsy is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which makes it unlawful for an employer with more than 15 employees to discriminate against anyone because of their disability, unless it can be justified. Under the DDA, epilepsy is considered to be a disability, even if the person's seizures are fully controlled by medication. People with epilepsy can do any job except work in the Armed Forces. There can be no blanket refusal of someone's application and each candidate must be considered on an individual basis. However, there are some jobs that have restrictions on a health and safety basis, requiring someone to be free of seizures for a certain length of time. The fire and ambulance services both vary regionally and it's worth contacting your local trust to find out if it has any specific requirements.

To drive an ambulance, someone with epilepsy needs to meet the regulations of the particular size of vehicle. Other jobs may be unsuitable if they involve considerable risk should a seizure occur. You must inform your employer about your epilepsy if it could affect your ability to do the job or general safety at work. If an employer is aware of an employee's epilepsy and takes it into consideration, work insurance will cover that person. If someone has frequent seizures, it's a good idea to tell workmates and to explain what to do if a seizure should occur.

Disclaimer

All information above is taken from BBC Health

All content within BBC Health is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of the BBC Health website. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.

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