People with certain conditions, such as types of epilepsy, which make them susceptible to seizures can use medications or undergo surgery to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
There are also numerous safety precautions individuals can take to help ensure they are safe and minimize the risk of serious complications if a seizure occurs.
Keep reading to learn more about seizure precautions to take at home, the precautions caregivers and family members can take to help keep someone safe during a seizure, and general tips for seizure management.
A seizure is a sudden, abnormal surge of electrical activity due to a series of complex chemical changes in nerve cells in the brain. Normally, there is a balance between cells in the brain that excite and stop other brain cells from transmitting electrical impulses. When someone experiences a seizure, there is a disruption in the balance between excitatory and inhibitory cells. This means that too much, or too little, activity occurs, creating an electrical surge, which can result in a seizure.
In some cases, seizures are severe and cause very obvious symptoms, such as convulsions, loss of consciousness, or uncontrollable jerking of the muscles. In other instances, seizures are very minor and do not cause noticeable symptoms beyond muscle ticks or twitches.
Seizures are not a disease or medical condition— they are a symptom of an underlying condition. Some people who experience a seizure without an identifiable cause may have epilepsy and can be prone to recurrent seizures.
People who experience seizures can take several precautions to help reduce the risk of injury.
These precautions depend on the activity taking place.
In the kitchen
Tips for preventing seizure injuries in the kitchen include the below.
- Cook with someone else or ask them to be nearby.
- Use nonbreakable dishes, drinkware, and cookware.
- Avoid carrying hot foods or liquids.
- Use a microwave, which is generally safer than other cooking methods.
- Turn pot or pan handles towards the back of the stove.
- Stand away from the stove during tasks, such as waiting for water to boil or pans to become hot.
- Do not use kitchen appliances alone.
- Turn kitchen appliances off immediately after using them.
- Use an electric stove or grill instead of a gas stove or grill with open flames.
- Use the back burners of stoves or grills when cooking.
In the bathroom
Precautions to take in the bathroom include the below.
- Shower instead of having a bath — drowning in the bathtub is the most common cause of death for people who experience seizures.
- Make sure someone is close by when bathing or can hear if you have a seizure.
- Install nonskid strips or a rubber mat on the shower or tub floor.
- Use devices, such as hair dryers, hair curlers, or hair straighteners, that have a safety switch and can turn off automatically.
- Try to keep the area around the toilet or sink clear, if possible.
- Never use electronic devices near water.
- Sit on a chair or seat in the shower.
- Use a shower curtain instead of a shower door.
- Make sure the bathroom doors swing outward.
- Ensure drains work properly.
- Do not lock bathroom doors, but use an indicator, such as a sign, to show it is in use.
- Use an electric shaver instead of a razor.
In the bedroom
Precautions to take in the bedroom include the below.
- Keep the bed away from nightstands, furniture, walls, and sharp or hard objects.
- Use a seizure alert monitor while sleeping.
- Sleep in a room with others or a place others can hear if someone is having a seizure.
- Keep electronic devices away from the bed.
- Cover or isolate heating devices that can become hot, such as radiators.
General household tips
General household precautions include the below.
- Avoid clutter or having a lot of items in rooms.
- Cover sharp corners of furniture and other objects with pads.
- Avoid having glass furniture or furnishings.
- Replace glass in windows or doors with shatterproof, plastic, or safety glass.
- Keep floors and walkways clear of objects, such as toys, tools, and other items.
- Do not use appliances or electric tools alone.
- Use devices with safety switches that will turn off automatically.
- Cover fireplaces with safety glass.
- Keep interior doors unlocked, so others can easily reach someone who needs help during a seizure.
- Avoid using space heaters or heaters that can easily topple over.
- Avoid using scatter rugs — use nonslip carpets.
- Use power tools with safety guards for activities such as drilling, nailing, grinding, cutting, or chopping.
- Secure larger items that may fall, such as televisions.
Learning seizure triggers, which may include skipping meals, sleep deprivation, fatigue, alcohol, certain sounds, and avoiding them, is another important precaution that people should take.
The following are some other situational measures for people experiencing seizure disorders.
- Never drive while having a seizure or still experiencing the effects of a seizure.
- Learn the rules about whether it is legal to drive with seizure conditions — in many states, a person must be seizure-free for 3–12 months to legally drive.
- Follow the advice from a doctor or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) about driving.
- Inform the DMV of seizure conditions or history of seizures.
Swimming and outdoors
- Never swim alone or in bodies of water without a lifeguard or others present.
- Wear a life jacket or other personal flotation devices while swimming or taking part in water sports.
- Sit or stand very far away from open sources of heat, such as fireplaces or campfires.
- Consider wearing a protective helmet or other protective gear if seizures are frequent or severe.
- Pay attention to potential hazards in the environment, such as bodies of water, railings, heights, or sharp objects.
- Avoid using ladders or climbing, especially alone. Use a safety harness if climbing is unavoidable.
- Avoid recreational activities that could cause serious injury if a seizure occurs during them, such as contact sports, skiing or snowboarding, skating, biking, or horseback riding.
Caring for babies or young children
- Do not bathe babies or small children alone.
- Feed or change diapers or the clothing of babies, infants, or young children while sitting down in the middle of a soft piece of furniture, such as a bed, couch, or carpet.
- Use a stroller to carry a baby or infant around and try to limit the time a person spends carrying or holding a child.
- Babyproof a household if there are babies, infants, or young children present.
People who have a family member, friend, roommate, or colleague who experiences seizures should know what to do if one occurs.
Safety precautions for individuals who spend time with those who experience seizures
- Place people experiencing seizures on the floor on their left side and put something soft and small, such as a pillow, under their neck.
- Loosen any clothing around the neck or anything that could interfere with breathing.
- Remove any nearby objects that could cause harm.
- If someone is wandering or seems confused, gently help them walk and restrict access to other areas.
- Talk to the person in a comforting manner and reassure them they are OK.
- Time the seizure and take notes about someone’s symptoms and what they were doing when the seizure developed, if possible.
- Ensure the person can breathe easily by checking their airways for any obstructions. If there are obstructions, remove them, but do not force the mouth or teeth to open. Obstructions might include gum, a retainer, food, or other objects that could fall into the airway and block it.
People who experience seizures should create a seizure action plan and discuss the steps with people they spend a lot of time with, so they know how to act if a seizure occurs.
Call 9-1-1 or take someone to the emergency department if:
- this is the person’s first seizure
- the seizure is severe or lasts more than 3–5 minutes
- the person does not regain full consciousness after the seizure has ended
- the person injuries themselves during the seizure
- the person having the seizure also has diabetes or is pregnant
- the person has repeated seizures
- a seizure occurs in water
- the person has trouble breathing
People who experience seizures or have a seizure disorder will need to make certain considerations, beyond basic safety precautions, to manage their condition and stay healthy.
General management tips for individuals who experience seizures include:
- Take medications as a doctor prescribes, and talk to a healthcare professional if new symptoms occur or symptoms worsen become more frequent.
- Make sure all specialist doctors and family doctors know about the seizure condition.
- Contact a doctor about potential negative interactions with seizure medications before taking over-the-counter medications or supplements.
- Know the side effects of seizure medications a person takes, such as dizziness or vision problems, and accommodate them.
- Never stop taking seizure medications suddenly or without the advice of a doctor.
- Be aware of which food or drinks may interact with seizure medication. In particular, grapefruit juice negatively affects blood levels and some seizure medications.
- Contact a doctor or pharmacist about side effects that do not cause noticeable symptoms, such as bone thinning, and find out how often a doctor will monitor these effects.
- Contact a doctor or pharmacist before starting seizure medication and find out whether to use an alternative form of birth control.
- Seek emergency care if an allergic rash occurs while taking seizure medicines.
- Get sufficient sleep and practice good sleep hygiene.
- Some seizure medications cause depression as a side effect. Contact a doctor if mood changes, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or depression occur while taking seizure medications, and seek treatment, such as therapy or medications, for these side effects, such as therapy or medications.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.
People who experience seizures or have a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy, need to take several precautions to help ensure they are safe and do not seriously injure themselves during a seizure.
Individuals with seizures will also need to talk with others they are often around about ways to help protect them. They should also discuss the steps people should take in the event of a seizure.
A person should always contact a medical professional if a seizure occurs for the first time or if seizures worsen and become more frequent.