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Canadian League Against Epilepsy

Safety measures to adopt in the presence of a person having a seizure:

At all times, remain calm and make sure the person is safe and comfortable. If you are in a public area, inform others so that they will understand and not be scared or confused. Seizures can be sneaky and may look very unusual or frightening.

Remember, the person having this type of seizure will not have any real awareness of their surroundings, so they need your help.

  • Clear the area of potential dangers.
  • Protect the head the best you can.
  • Never insert anything in the mouth.
  • Do not attempt cardiac reanimation.
  • Do not restrain the person having a seizure.
  • Loosen clothing around the neck.
  • Turn the person on the side to avoid suffocation from the flow of saliva.
  • Do not give anything to drink.
  • Stand by until the person regains consciousness.
  • Reassure the person that everything is ok and that you are there to help.

IF IT LASTS LONGER THAN 5 MINUTES OR IF THERE IS MORE THAN ONE SEIZURE, CALL AN AMBULANCE. THE LONGER A SEIZURE GOES ON, THE GREATER THE CHANCE IT MAY NEED MEDICAL INTERVENTION TO STOP IT.


Safety measures AND DRIVING:

Safety Measures

Persons who recently experienced a first seizure and those who were diagnosed with epilepsy should be aware that some activities and environments might expose them to dangers and threats.

Driving a car, operating heavy equipment or cutting/burning tools can be associated with severe injuries or death. The same applies to professional or recreational activities on platforms, ladders or in or around a pool or body of water (increased risk of drowning).

At home, specific risks are associated with unsupervised bathtub use and with the use of cooking appliances. Showers are recommended.

Among sports, bicycling carries risks of injuries by combining the possibility of falls with the relatively high velocity of motion. Scuba diving, skydiving and any other sports in which even a short impairment of consciousness may lead to fatal consequences are not recommended.

Driving

Driving a car is associated with increased risks of accidents in persons with uncontrolled seizures. A motor vehicle becomes a dangerous weapon if not under constant control by its operator. Loss of control can lead to severe injuries or death of the driver, passengers and or bystanders.

Generally speaking, the risks of driving for people with epilepsy decrease when seizures are controlled for a long period of time and when patients take their medications as advised by their doctor. Risks are higher for professional drivers who have to drive trucks, buses, emergency vehicles, and taxis due to the high number of hours spent driving combined with exposure to variable driving conditions (e.g., weather, fatigue, speed, constant requirement of concentration, stress, etc.).

Public safety is the ultimate goal and is the basis for worldwide driving guidelines. Canadian Provinces and Territories have their specific regulations regarding driving for persons with epilepsy. Also, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) published driver’s guidelines to help physicians in evaluating the risk of driving for persons with seizures, epilepsy and a variety of other different medical conditions. In some provinces reporting of persons with epilepsy is mandatory, in others it is not.

CMA and CCMTA guidelines agree that a non-commercial driver with newly diagnosed epilepsy can generally be allowed to drive a car after six months of seizure freedom and a commercial driver with a truck or priority vehicle after 5 years of seizure freedom. After a first, unprovoked seizure, patients are generally required to remain free of seizures for at least 3 to 6 months before returning to non-commercial driving and for 12 months before returning to commercial driving. Note that you must discuss driving restrictions with your doctor.

The risks of driving for persons with epilepsy have been studied extensively and this research serves as the basis for decision-making when assessing the risks of specific activities (e.g., working on ladders, operating power tools, scuba diving, sky diving, etc.). However, no documented risk data for these activities exist.

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