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March 2004

Safety and epilepsy.

By Helen McMahon,
Nurse Educator,
Epilepsy Association Australia.

What is epilepsy?

Anyone can have a seizure under certain circumstances and not all seizures result in a diagnosis of epilepsy. It is only when there is a tendency to have recurrent seizures that epilepsy is diagnosed.

A seizure is a disruption in the normal pattern of electrical impulses in the brain, caused by the brain cells firing simultaneously at a much faster rate. Some seizures are severe and recognised as a seizure, whilst others are subtle and may not be noticed by most people.

Depending on where a seizure starts and spreads in the brain, they can result in changes in:

Safety tips

Accidents can happen at any time to anyone. People take risks every day, but sometimes the risks that people with epilepsy have to deal with can be different from those faced by others.

Studies show that only 1% of seizures actually result in injuries. With an awareness of potential risks and ways in which these can be lessened, activities can be made much safer and most people with epilepsy can live full and active lives.

Clipart depicting a fall.

Safety precautions should be sensible and relevant to the particular person involved, with a balance between risk and restriction. The Epilepsy Association is able to provide support and guidance to individuals, families and organisations so they can undertake sensible risk management.

The risk of injury varies greatly and can depend on:

Recreational activities are important for a healthy and happy lifestyle and people with epilepsy should not be over protected. Some activities may need to be modified or limited for an individual to ensure safety.

Take some time to consider your own seizure pattern and the need for modifications to activities, and remember to enjoy life as much as you can.

Tips for 'seizure smart swimming'

Seizures during activities and exercise are rare. Most sporting activities are safe as long as overexertion, dehydration, and low blood sugar are avoided. Here are some guidelines for people with epilepsy to think about when swimming.


This is a starting point for considering safety and seizures. A more extensive list can be found at The Epilepsy Association is a professional organisation committed to enhancing the quality of life for people affected by seizures and in improving community attitudes towards seizure disorders. The Epilepsy Association provides support and services to all people affected by epilepsy and seizures. Call 1300 366 162 to be connected to your nearest branch in Australia.

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