Teens and adolescents living with epilepsy can lead fulfilling lives and participate in daily activities. They can go to work or school, independently take care of themselves, and play sports. However, the seizures associated with epilepsy can be unpredictable and may occur during such activities. This means that some daily activities may require extra precautions to maintain safety. If you or someone you love has epilepsy, it’s important to know about the daily activities that require extra thought and what to do when a seizure does occur. Take charge and empower yourself; learn about managing the risks for yourself and others with epilepsy!
What are some daily activities that require extra safety measures?
Many teens can go about their daily activities with little risk to their safety. However, for teens living with epilepsy, many daily activities require extra precautions. Below are some examples of daily activities that for a teen with epilepsy require extra thought and care.
It is important to put safety precautions into place within the home to prevent injury if a person experiences a seizure. You can add padding over sharp corners (think fireplaces, coffee tables, counters, etc.), use non-slip carpets, and avoid glass tables. If you or someone you love has frequent seizures, it’s a good idea for you or the individual to avoid climbing stairs alone. To help eliminate frequent trips up and down the stairs, keep common household objects on each floor.
Often times, it is safer for a person with a history of epilepsy to take a shower rather than a bath. The reason being is that if a seizure occurs during a bath there is a higher risk of drowning due to submersion. If someone experiences frequent seizures, it may be good idea to purchase a shower chair or sit on the bottom of the shower to avoid falling. It’s also a good idea to always shower with the bathroom door unlocked. That way if you or someone you love has a seizure, there is easy access into the bathroom to help.
When cooking over a stove, it’s safest to use the back burners. Using the back burners can prevent burns or other injuries if a seizure was to occur while cooking.
It’s safest to avoid driving if you have been experiencing frequent seizures. Consider asking others (i.e. family, friends, etc.), using public transportation, disability ride services, or ride share apps like Uber or Lyft. If your seizures are less frequent, talk with your health care provider (HCP) and learn about the laws in your state. Every state has different laws about when people with epilepsy are allowed to drive. In some states, driving is prohibited for 3 to 12 months following a seizure.
Curious about the laws in your state? The Epilepsy Foundation has a database of driving laws in each state.
Talk to your health care provider (HCP) to see if it is OK for you to climb ladders or be in unprotected elevated areas. If the HCP feels that is it OK, always make sure a support person is present in the event of a seizure.
It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your health care provider (HCP) about whether or not it is safe to go swimming. If you and your HCP agree, always make sure you have a support person with you (while swimming) in the event of a seizure.
Always place distance between you and any open fire pits, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, etc. Never use matches or candles if you are alone. If there is a fireplace in your home, use guards to prevent accidental falls into the fireplace.
What should I teach my friends about seizure safety?
Seizures may be scary to watch, but generally, they are over within a few seconds to a few minutes and they are not painful to the person experiencing them.
Follow these steps to keep the person you love safe during a seizure:
- Stay calm
- Help lower the person to a flat surface, but don’t force them
- Once the person is on the ground, help roll them on to their side
- Loosen any clothing that may be tight around the neck and remove glasses, bags, etc.
- Do not try to stop their uncontrolled movements — this means do not hold or restrain the person
- Make sure the area around the person is safe, free from objects that may hurt them if they bump into them
- Never leave a person who is seizing alone — make sure their breathing is OK
- Never put anything into a person’s mouth — this can cause an injury or choking
- Speak in a calm voice, reassuring voice, during and after the seizure.
When a seizure ends, people may be very tired or confused. These symptoms are known as the “post-ictal state,” and gradually improve after the seizure.
When to call 9-1-1:
In most cases, you will not need emergency help if this person has known epilepsy. However, here are some reasons you need to call 9-1-1 during a seizure.
- Suffers an injury due to their seizure
- Develops difficulty breathing
- Changes colors (specifically blue) around their mouth
- Experiences a seizure that lasts greater than 5 minutes
- Experiences multiple seizures back to back
- Individual does not have known epilepsy