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How to stay safe with epilepsy in the summer - Dr. Olga Laban-Grant

Seizure safety during the warmer months

The nice weather of spring and summer is almost here! Gardening, spring cleaning, and outdoor sports will be on everybody’s mind soon enough which is great but let’s not forget to maintain seizure safety. Epilepsy can pose some unique challenges since seizure patterns may be affected by the heat and dehydration, or due to changes in daily routines. Keep in mind that even if your seizures are well controlled on medications, some of the medications may decrease ability to sweat and therefore may increase chance of overheating, while other medications can make you extra sensitive to sun exposure.

Here are some tips to avoid seizure related injuries:

- Check with your physician if you are on medications that may be affected by the sun or may change your ability to adjust to warm weather.

- If you have epilepsy that is sensitive to elevations in temperature consider wearing a cooling vest.

- If you have photosensitive seizures wear protective gear such as polarized, blue tinted sunglasses.

Take extra precautions when swimming, boating, fishing, or even walking close to water. Drowning is the most common cause of accidental death in people with epilepsy; however, in almost all cases this was due to a lapse in supervision. 

- Check with your doctor to see if your seizures are controlled well enough to allow you to participate in water activities. 

- Never leave anyone with epilepsy (regardless of their age) alone while swimming or close to water. Someone who swims well enough to be able to lift the person out of the water needs to be within arm’s length in case there is a seizure. In addition to that inform lifeguards and instructors that you or your loved one has epilepsy.

- Avoid swimming in open and unsupervised water.  

- Wear a life jacket whenever possible if you are swimming in supervised water, when on dock or even close to water and wear a life jacket always in open water, when on a boat, or raft.  Wear brightly colored U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest that fits well and that supports the head above the water. 

- If you have a pond, place a fence around it, and plant bushes or shrubs around the deep end to prevent falling in. Place a safety grid just below the surface of the water. If you are planning to put a pond in, make sure to place it in area that is easily visible.

For those of you who like to garden or do small repairs around the house:

- Choose grass or bark chippings as a softer alternative to gravel 

- Use lawn mowers and power tools that have an automatic shut-off mechanism and safety locks

- Wear protective gear such as gloves, long sleeves and pants, eye protection, proper footwear, and a helmet if needed,

- Check with your physician to make sure it is safe to use a ladder or work at heights

As for exercising, it is always wise to:

- Start slowly especially if you have not been very active during the winter,

- Decrease the time spent outside when the sun is at its strongest, and stay under shaded areas if possible. Use sunscreen, wear lightly colored and breathable cotton fabric and make sure to stay well hydrated.

- Keep steady and regular sleep and medications schedules, 

- Ask family and friends to carry a cell phone (in a water proof container) and to learn CPR.

- And probably the most important – know your own abilities and don’t be afraid to ask for help or to take a break if needed.


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