Seizures and blackouts affect consciousness, awareness and judgement, which can increase the risk of accidents and injury.
When you are diagnosed with epilepsy think about what things around you may create risks. This could include driving, using heavy machinery, working at heights, around water, sports, recreation and general safety issues.
Avoiding injury will vary from person to person and will depend on the type of seizures, how often they occur, your age, lifestyle and any other health conditions you may have.
What can I do to reduce the risk of incidents or injury?
Take some time to think about your home and work environment, and lifestyle or recreational activities for possible risks. Ask yourself:
- what risks are there for anyone in this setting?
- what are the potential hazards if I had a seizure?
- what actions can I take to reduce the risk of harm to myself or others?
Identifying and planning ahead to reduce risk can help you to pursue your day to day activities as safely as possible.
The information below isn’t an exhaustive list, but can get you started on self-assessing your risk which you can also discuss with your doctor.
Talking to your doctor about your concerns and also talking to others with epilepsy may be helpful in making changes.
Below is some general safety advice
Do you sleep alone?
Is there someone to help you if a seizure happens during the night?
Do they know what to do?
If you live alone, are you aware of what options, alarms or devices may be available to increase support in case you have a seizure?
Our First Aid page is a good start to teaching those around you what to do if a seizure occurs.
There are a number of devices and monitors for night-time seizure monitoring now available for use in the home. Depending on the device, they are designed to recognise a seizure, fall, or changes in heart rate or breathing patterns. This triggers an alarm so that help – either a family, friend or emergency services – can be notified.
Please note: Monitors, alarms and safety products don’t guarantee safety or detection of all seizures, but they can help provide peace of mind for some people.
Because many epilepsy-related deaths often occur in bed during the night, there is an assumption that suffocation or breathing difficulties may contribute to the deaths. There are special “breathable” pillows available, that seem to allow more airflow. They have not been proven to prevent death from suffocation or SUDEP. The use of such pillows is a personal choice.
Read more about safety and monitoring devices on our Epilepsy Products page
Read more about nocturnal seizures
Take care around water, particularly if you have a child with epilepsy or if you are a parent with epilepsy because baths, showers, spas, pools, ponds or any body of water can be dangerous if a seizure occurs.
- Have a shower instead of a bath:
- use either plastic or safety glass shower screen, or a shower curtain in case you have a seizure
- if possible, have a shower with a flat floor (instead of a shower tray) so water doesn’t collect
- if your shower is over a bath, wrap a towel around the taps of the shower to help avoid injury if you fall. Don’t put the bath plug in
- consider having your shower when someone is around
- if your seizures have a pattern, shower when they are least likely to happen
- avoid locking the bathroom door
- you may wish to think about fitting a safety bathroom door which can also open outwards in case you have a seizure behind the door.
Swimming & other water activities:
- never swim alone
- ensure that someone who knows about your epilepsy is with you or watching you and that they are able to help you if you have a seizure
- public swimming pools with lifeguards are the safest places to swim. If your seizures aren’t controlled, let them know you have epilepsy so they can support you if needed
- if you take part in water activities (eg: fishing, boating, water sports), use a life jacket and ensure someone knows you have seizures
- see more water safety tips here.
- make sure that hot water, heaters, radiators and spas are temperature controlled
- use a guard for open fires, fireplaces and radiators/heaters
- avoid using lightweight free-standing heaters if possible
- turn the cold water tap on first and off last when using warm or hot water
- use a microwave where possible instead of a stove or oven. Keep the microwave below head height
- place saucepan handles away from the cooker edge when cooking in case they are knocked during a seizure
- serve meals from the counter rather than carrying hot food to the table
- avoid lighting candles or fires when alone
- switch off heated appliances as soon as you have finished using them
- take care around barbecues and bonfires, especially if your seizures cause you to wander or fall.
- avoid having hard flooring or cover with non-slip rugs/mats to reduce your chances of injury during a seizure
- keep stairs and walkways free from obstacles, and avoid housing with stairs if you can
- consider covering sharp edges of furniture
- consider using toughened safety glass or double glazing for doors and windows – or use a safety film to cover existing glass
- if you have seizures during sleep choose a low bed. Keep furniture or hard objects away from the bed
- use cordless appliances with automatic switch off and ensure electrical cables are not trailing
- make sure wide opening windows and balconies have suitable locks or barriers to prevent falls during a seizure
- avoid activities at height unless using a harness (eg ladders, zip-lines, rock climbing).
- wear a helmet for activities such as cycling and a mouth guard for sport where required
- stand back from the road or platform edge when waiting for a bus, train or ferry
- use a lift instead of stairs or escalator if you can
- use non-breakable crockery and reduce the use of knives by buying sliced food where possible
- wear gloves to wash dishes and load a dishwasher with sharp points downwards
- have an electrician install a circuit breaker on your power supply
- use an electric shaver instead a razor
- use power tools with safety guards and automatic stop switches, and wear protective gear.
Child care safety
If you are caring for a child and you are at risk of having seizures, start by childproofing the house. Some simple suggestions include:
- instead of carrying the child, use a stroller when possible
- change the baby on the floor
- do not bath the baby when you are alone
- feed the baby whilst sitting on a couch or bed so the child is supported easily.
For more tips on childproofing your home.
Help in an emergency
- explain your seizures and what to do in an emergency to your friends and family so they can be prepared if you need assistance. Offer a copy of the first aid poster
- ensure that someone who knows about your epilepsy has a key to your home, especially if you live alone
- wear a medical alert or carry a wallet card so emergency services can quickly find out about your epilepsy
- put your emergency contact details into your phone
- carry a copy of your epilepsy plan or summary of your medications and allergies to assist with emergency care.
See here for more tips and resources about seizure safety