Why is safety an issue in epilepsy?
Imagine you’re in the kitchen, cooking something for dinner. You’re holding a pan filled with boiling water.
All of a sudden, and with no warning, you have a seizure. This causes you to fall down, cracking your head on the wooden floor and only narrowly avoiding spilling the scalding water on yourself.
This isn’t a scenario anyone wants to find themselves in.
But for the 30% of people who have seizures which aren’t controlled by anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), keeping safe is a real concern.
The people most at risk of injuring themselves are those who have seizures which cause them to fall down (for example, tonic seizures, atonic seizures and tonic-clonic seizures) with no warnings or ‘auras’.
An ‘aura’ is a sensation that some people with epilepsy have before they have a seizure. People who experience them are able to remove themselves from potentially dangerous situations before the seizure starts. However, people who don’t have warnings or ‘auras’ are not able to do this.
Assessing your risk
Some people are more willing to take risks than others, whether they have epilepsy or not.
The amount of risk placed on activities, such as travelling or playing sports, will depend on the individual; and whether the enjoyment or fulfilment they get out of the activity outweighs the potential risk.
Assessing risk in the home is a little more objective. Just read through the advice in this article and look around your home to identify any potential risks.
An occupational therapist can also assess your home and suggest adaptations to keep you as safe as possible. If you are eligible, your local authority may be able to help you with funding for these adaptations or support. Ask your GP for a referral to an occupational therapist to get an assessment.
Safety in the home
Make sure that everyone you live with knows basic first aid for when you have a seizure.
There are also some practical steps you can take to make your home as safe as possible…
It is particularly important to be extra careful when bathing, because having a seizure whilst in the bath or shower could cause you to drown, unless you minimise this risk as much as possible. You can do this by:
• Having showers instead of baths
• Using a fabric shower curtain rather than a glass screen
• Sitting down when showering instead of standing, to avoid injuries if you fall
• If you have an over-bath shower, removing plugs or anything that could stop the water from draining. You should also cover taps with a thick towel to avoid injury if you were to fall on them
• Having someone wait outside the door whilst you shower so that they can hear if you have a seizure
• Using ‘engaged/vacant’ signs instead of locks on the bathroom door, so that someone could get in to help you if you have a seizure
• Having your bathroom door open outwards, so that someone would be able to get in if you were to fall against the door
• Installing a temperature control with a safety cut-off to avoid scalding
Here are some suggestions for making your bedroom safer:
• Avoid putting your bed against a wall or radiator, to avoid injuring yourself on them
• Put cushions, blankets and pillows on the floor around your bed, to cushion your fall and reduce injuries if you were to fall out of bed
• Choose a low level bed to reduce the distance you would fall
• Don’t put furniture with sharp objects close to your bed
• Consider using an anti-suffocation pillow. They have tiny holes in them which allows you to breath freely should you have a seizure whilst lying face down. You can have a look at the anti-suffocation pillow here
Here are some tips for making your kitchen safer:
• Put saucepans on the back rings and turn the handles away from the edge of the cooker, to avoid knocking them over
• Use a cordless iron which switches off automatically after a specified time
• Use a cordless kettle which switches off automatically
• Get a kettle tipper, so that you can pour hot water without lifting the kettle. This reduces the risk of spilling boiling water
• Use a microwave instead of a gas or electric cooker
Around the house generally
• Put a fire guard in front of your fire
• Use radiator coverings
• Choose softer floorings, such as carpet or linoleum, instead of wood floors or tiles
• If your windows are not made of safety glass, consider getting it replaced or put safety glass film on them instead
• Cover sharp corners on furniture with corner covers
As well as ensuring you’re as safe as possible at home, you should also take precautions to maintain your safety whilst out and about. You can do this by:
• Making sure the people you are with are aware of your epilepsy and know what to do if you have a seizure
• Consider carrying a GPS tracking device which you could use to alert a caregiver of your location in the event of a seizure. This would be useful if you experience auras and would be able to press the button to alert your contact before the onset of the seizure. Take a look at our Pebbell GPS tracker
• Consider wearing a seizure watch which would alert your caregivers if you had a seizure. For example, the Embrace watch
Did you find this blog useful? Let us know in the comments…