First aid

05 July 2005

Water safety for epileptics

Frolicking in the water can be deadly for epileptics if they are struck by sudden seizures, but simple precautions can prevent a drowning.

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Frolicking in the water can be deadly for epileptics if they are struck by sudden seizures, but simple precautions can prevent a drowning.

Contrary to widespread public misconceptions most epileptics who have seizures can swim, boat and participate in other water sports safely.

"I think that many people believe having epilepsy means you can't swim and do water sports; it's a natural instinct, even for parents who want to keep their kids safe," says Dr Martha Morrell, chairperson of the Epilepsy foundation.

But she adds, "We believe it's safe for most to participate in water sports with a few common-sense suggestions."

The foundation recommends that before epileptic children head for the water, their parents should consult a doctor to make sure it's safe.

Then, a person who knows first aid for seizures should always accompany an epileptic child in the water. And neither adults nor children with seizure disorders should swim alone.

Also, if a seizure happens in the water, support the victim's head and keep his face out of the water. Once the victim is back on shore or by the side of the pool, turn the victim on his side and check his airway. If water has been swallowed or breathing seems laboured, seek medical treatment.

Other tips from the foundation to prevent accidents among epileptics:

  • Use a floatation device to support a child's head and keep it above water.
  • Inform lifeguards and swimming teachers that someone has epilepsy.
  • Epileptics should avoid swimming if they have forgotten to take their seizure medication and stop swimming if they get tired or cold in the water.
  • Keep medications away from water, because water causes a medication to lose its anti-convulsing effect.
  • Wear polarised sunglasses if flashing light can cause seizures.
  • Remember bathtubs and showers also can present dangers, even if the water is only an inch deep. Don't leave children with epilepsy in a bathtub alone.

lepsy, a recurrent disturbance of the electrical activity of the brain, which causes seizures. No known cure exists, but epilepsy can treated with medication, surgery or a special diet.

 

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