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Practical guidance on staying safe

Safety around the house

General safety at home

If you live alone, think about getting a key safe. This is a locked box fitted by your front door. You keep a spare front door key in there. A code is needed to open the safe. Tell selected friends and family the code. This means they’d be able to get into the house if you had had a seizure and they couldn’t reach you on the phone, for example. But make sure not to leave your other key in the front door lock. If you do, no-one will be able to unlock the door from the outside.

In the bathroom
In the kitchen
In the bedroom
Lifts
In the garden
Safety outside the house

Suggestions for reducing the risk of burns and scalds

  • Make sure there are no trailing wires attached to appliances that could cause a fire or burns if pulled over. Cable tidies, available from DIY (hardware) stores, can keep wires out of the way
  • Use guards on heaters and radiators to stop you from falling directly onto them
  • Use a fire guard that is fixed to the wall, so it won’t move out of place if you fall on it. Put free-standing heaters in places where they are least likely to be knocked over
  • Use a sensor hairdryer that turns itself off when it is put down
  • Don’t use heated appliances if you are alone – this includes hair dryers, hair straighteners, curling tongs and irons. Or consider using them with a timer, so they switch off automatically after a certain length of time. This won't necessarily prevent burns but it might help reduce the level of injury
  • Switch off heated appliances immediately after use and place them out of reach until they are cool
  • Have carpets with high wool content rather than high synthetic content, to reduce the risk of friction burns
  • Install smoke detectors, which can be helpful in two ways:
        - They may alert other people if food is burning because you are having a seizure
        - They will let you know that food is burning if you have memory problems and sometimes forget what you are doing

Suggestions for reducing the risk of cuts, bruises, fractures and head injuries

  • Avoid having very hard floor surfaces - more cushioned flooring, such as carpets, linoleum, cork and rubber, will provide a softer landing if you fall
  • Keep stairs clear of obstructions at all times, to avoid tripping
  • Put a soft rug or carpet at the bottom of the stairs, to cushion any falls. Cover any edges that are sharp or stick out, for example on furniture. Edge and corner guards are available from many different retailers
  • Use toughened safety glass or double glazing in windows or doors, or cover ordinary glass with safety film – contact your local glass merchant or DIY (hardware) store for more information
  • Make sure that any wide-opening upstairs windows or doors from upper balconies have suitable locks, so you can’t fall from them
  • Make sure there are no trailing wires that you could trip over. Cable tidies, available from DIY (hardware) stores, can keep wires out of the way
  • Where possible, use cordless versions of things like irons and kettles
  • For electrical items with long wires, if possible use coiled leads, so you don’t trip over them

In the bathroom

If you have seizures, it is important to take extra care when bathing, because there would be a risk of drowning during a seizure. It is much safer for you to have a shower than a bath. We have included information about baths because, for some people, it's just not possible to have a shower.

Suggestions for reducing the risk of drowning

  • Have a shower instead of a bath - it’s safer because the water runs away
  • Ask somebody to stay in the bathroom with you, or to wait outside the door, so they can hear if you have a seizure
  • Put ‘engaged/vacant’ signs on the bathroom door, instead of using locks
  • Have a bathroom door that opens outwards, or folds or slides open and closed. Then, if you fall against it during a seizure, you won’t block someone from getting in

In the bath

  • Keep the water depth shallow and turn off the taps before you get in or
  • Don’t put the plug in, but sit in the bath with the water running from the taps or a shower attachment

 In the shower

  • Have a shower cubicle with a flat floor rather than a shower tray, so that water can’t collect

Suggestions for reducing the risk of cuts, bruises, fractures and head injuries

  • Make sure that any fittings are as flush to the wall as possible, to reduce the risk of banging against them if you fall
  • Have a separate shower cubicle, rather than a shower attachment over the bath
  • Use a shower screen made of plastic or safety glass, or a shower curtain
  • If the shower is over the bath, cover the taps with protective material, such as a thick towel, to avoid injury if you fall
  • If possible, sit down in the shower rather than stand up, to avoid injuries if you fall

Suggestions for reducing the risk of scalds

  • Make sure that the temperature controls work well and that there is a safety ‘cut-off’ in the shower

In the kitchen

Suggestions for reducing the risk of burns and scalds

  • Use a microwave rather than a gas or electric cooker
  • Place saucepans on the back burners and with the handles away from the edge of the cooker, so you can’t knock them over
  • Take plates or dishes to the cooker, rather than carrying hot pans to the table
  • Use a toaster instead of a grill to avoid the risk of burning food
  • Use kettle tippers and teapot pourers, to avoid the risk of spilling hot liquid

In the bedroom

If you have seizures when you are in bed, here are some suggestions for making your bedroom safer:

Suggestions for reducing the risk of burns and scalds:

  • Avoid putting your bed next to a radiator

Suggestions for reducing the risk of cuts, bruises, fractures and head injuries

  • Avoid putting your bed against a wall or next to a radiator, to prevent knocking your limbs
  • Put cushions, pillows or a mattress on the floor around the bed, to reduce injuries if you fall out of bed
  • Choose a low bed, so there is less distance to fall to the floor
  • Keep sharp-edged objects and furniture away from the bed
  • Have a pull cord above the bed for your main light, or wall lights behind the bed, instead of a bedside table with a lamp

Anti-suffocation pillows

Some people who have sleep seizures use anti-suffocation pillows. These may be safer than ordinary pillows, although we don’t have any research to prove this. If you are thinking about buying an anti-suffocation pillow, it is advisable to discuss this with your epilepsy nurse or epilepsy specialist.

Epilepsy Action has more information about where to buy anti-suffocation pillows

Lifts

If you have mobility difficulties, you may need to use a stair lift or vertical lift. Neither of these options is risk-free if you have seizures, and there is no perfect solution. To a certain extent, it is a matter of arriving at a compromise between the safest option and what is practical.

Vertical lifts

Where possible, because they are likely to be small, confined spaces, these should have a padded interior to cushion the blow if you fall.

Stair lifts

  • Most stair lifts have simple straps which you should use, as they are not likely to cause injury if you have a seizure
  • You may need to wear a full harness to prevent you from falling, but be aware that this could cause injury during a seizure. This may, however, be safer than falling from the stair lift

In the garden

Suggestions to reduce the risk of burns and scalds

  • Avoid getting so close to bonfires or barbecues that you could fall on them during a seizure
  • If you sometimes wander during a seizure, ask someone to stay with you when you are near a bonfire or barbecue

Suggestions to reduce the risk of drowning

  • Don't have ponds or pools
  • If you do have ponds or pools, make sure they are securely fenced off when you are alone in the garden

Safety outside the house

Many people with epilepsy worry about having a seizure when out and about.  This is a common reason why some people feel safer staying at home.

Our tips for staying safe outside might help you to feel more confident about going out.

Some tips for staying safe outside

  • Make careful decisions based on what you learn from each safety check
  • Put everything possible in place to minimise risk
  • Carry a card or medical ID jewellery which explains that you have epilepsy, what first aid you may or may not need and who to contact
  • Consider whether some kind of alarm or tracking device would be useful for you
  • If you are feeling anxious about getting out, ask your family doctor if there are any groups which might help you with this
  • If you are worried about how your friends or colleagues will react if you have a seizure, share your concerns and check out if they are accurate. If they do have concerns, they may need more information about epilepsy. You could share this yourself or point them to Epilepsy Action resources

How can I get around safely when I can’t drive?

If you don’t meet the epilepsy and driving laws you won't be able to drive. For many people this is really hard to come to terms with. And some people also have concerns about staying safe on public transport. If you feel confident using public transport, make sure you plan your journey ahead of time. Also see if there is anything from our general list of staying safe outside the home that would help.

Here are some ways in which people plan their lives when they can’t drive:

  • Ask for lifts from family, friends and colleagues
  • Consider living near a good bus route or railway station
  • Plan your journey in advance, so you feel confident about where you are going
  • Use a free bus pass and Disabled Person’s Railcard
  • Use taxis when necessary
  • Do shopping online
  • Walk, if it’s possible
  • Cycle, wearing a helmet and avoiding busy roads where possible
Code: 
B015.05
Event Date: 
Tuesday 5 June 2018

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Christine Hanson, Advanced Clinical Nurse Specialist in Epilepsy in Cardiff for her contribution to this information.

Christine Hanson has declared no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated November 2017
    To be reviewed October 2019

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