Water sports in general
Water sports can be enjoyed by people with epilepsy whose seizures are well controlled. If your seizures are completely controlled, you need to consider the general safety precautions for that sport. If you are still having seizures, you need to consider safety issues and your seizures.
- Some water sports can be hazardous and may be best avoided
- Don’t do water sports on your own
- Make sure someone with you knows about your epilepsy and how to rescue you if necessary
- Wearing a life jacket is essential if there’s a danger of falling into the water
If your seizures are completely controlled, you don’t need to take any greater safety precautions than anyone else. If you are still having seizures, you need to consider safety precautions.
- Seek advice from your doctor or epilepsy nurse. Discuss issues such as your seizure type(s), frequency, and any other factors that could affect your safety when swimming
- It is always a good idea to have a companion in the water with you
- Talk to the staff at your local swimming pool about any special requirements you may have
- Use a floating/buoyancy aid
- If there is a lifeguard or pool supervisor present, make them aware of your epilepsy
- If there’s no qualified lifeguard present, don’t swim deeper than the shoulder height of the companion swimming with you
- Make sure that your companion knows what to do if you have a seizure and is strong enough to help you (see how to deal with a seizure in the water, below)
- Practise what to do if you have a seizure, with your companion. This will boost your confidence and theirs
- You could ask a lifeguard to show you how to deal with a seizure that happens in the water
- Don’t swim if you are feeling unwell
- Avoid overcrowded situations, as it might be difficult for others to notice if you have a seizure
How to deal with a seizure in the water
Tonic-clonic seizures – basic guidelines:
- From behind, tilt the person’s head so it is out of the water
- If possible, move the person to shallow water
- Shout for a lifeguard to help you get the person out of the water
- Cushion their head with something soft (for example a towel)
- Don’t restrain their movements or place anything in their mouth
- If the person has been prescribed emergency medicine, give this if needed
- When the jerking movements have stopped, place them on their side to recover
- Keep them warm and stay with them until they feel better
Absence and focal seizures – basic guidelines
Protect the person from danger, for example by guiding them away from deep water or by holding their head above the water. When they recover, check if they need to get out of the water as they may feel confused and need to rest.
When to call an ambulance
Call an ambulance if:
- The person may have swallowed or breathed in water, even if they appear to be fully recovered or
- You know it’s the person’s first seizure, or if the person is unknown to you or
- The person goes from one seizure to another without regaining consciousness between seizures or
- The seizure lasts longer than is usual for the person or, if in doubt, when the seizure continues for more than five minutes or
- The person has been injured
The British Sub-Aqua Club recommend that you are free from awake seizures and off epilepsy medicine for five years if you want to go scuba diving. If you only have seizures while asleep, the decision is made on an individual basis.
If your seizures are completely controlled, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use a Jacuzzi. However, if your seizures are not well controlled, you should have someone with you who would know how to help you, if you have a seizure.
If your seizures are completely controlled, you need to consider the general safety precautions for fishing. If you are still having seizures, never fish alone. Make sure the person with you knows what to do if you have a seizure. Wearing a life jacket is essential if there’s a danger of falling into the water. Using a longer line may mean you don’t have to sit too near the water’s edge.