Epilepsy Support, Managing Medications, and Setting Up a Safe Environment

Getting Help from People Around You

Seizures can come on unexpectedly. Having had at least one seizure, you know how scary a feeling it was for you as well as for those around you. To help you feel more confident in dealing with seizures, you will want to teach friends, co-workers, and family members about your condition. They will want to know what steps they should take in case you have a seizure.

What You Need to Know about Epilepsy

Epilepsy affects people in different ways, but here are some facts about epilepsy:
  • Seizures can bring on unusual behavior. Those around you need to know you are not in control of your actions during a seizure.
  • Seizures normally last 2 to 5 minutes and end naturally.
  • After a seizure, you may remain drowsy and confused for a short time.

How People Can Help You During a Seizure

The first aid for seizures is simple. The people around you at the time of the seizure need to keep you safe from injury until the seizure runs its course. Here are some additional actions that your family, friends, and co-workers can take:
  • Allow the seizure to run its course naturally.
  • You should not be restrained in any way. Keep all objects (for example, spoons) out of your mouth.
  • Place your head on a soft surface such as a jacket or folded blanket. Turn your head to the side to make breathing easier.
  • Loosen neckties and collars around your neck.
  • Move sharp objects (including chairs, toys, and appliances) out of the way.
  • When possible, provide privacy and comfort.
  • When the seizure is over, roll you onto your side to make breathing easier.

If Your Diagnosis of Epilepsy Is New

If your diagnosis is new, your doctor will want more information about your seizures. Ask people around you to note:
  • How you acted immediately prior to the seizure
  • What parts of your body were affected during the seizure
  • How long the seizure episode lasted
  • Your level of awareness during the seizure

What You Need To Know about Taking Your Epilepsy Medicine

Understanding Epilepsy
The goal of taking epilepsy medicine (called anticonvulsants) is to control seizures as completely as possible while minimizing side effects. Most seizures can be controlled by taking a single drug or combinations of drugs. Therapy usually begins with a low dose, increasing over a period of weeks to a maintenance level. Drug therapy is very individualized and it may take some time for you and your doctor to find the right balance.

Taking Your Epilepsy Medicine
  • Always take your epilepsy medicine exactly as prescribed. If you suddenly stop your medication, you risk having serious seizures that may put you in the hospital and may even be life-threatening.
Establish a Reminder System for Taking Your Medication
  • Link taking your medicine with a routine you do every day such as brushing your teeth or eating meals.
  • Post reminder notes where you will notice them, such as on the bathroom mirror.
  • Buy a pill dispenser from your pharmacy that keeps your medicine organized by the day of the week.
  • Be honest with your doctor if you are having problems remembering to take the medicine. He or she can help you with additional strategies.
Report Side Effects
  • Call your doctor if you notice any changes in your health or behaviors. Some side effects may be temporary, but only your doctor will know best whether or not your medication needs to be adjusted.
Exercise Caution If Taking Other Drugs or Drinking Alcohol
  • Ask your doctor if there are specific medicines that cannot be taken at the same time as your epilepsy medicine.
Carry Identification with Condition and Drug Information
  • Carry some identification that states your medical condition and the drugs you take. This will ensure you get appropriate treatment in the case of an emergency.
Tell Your Pharmacist and Other Doctors That You Take Epilepsy Medicine
  • When you are planning surgery or being treated for other medical conditions, your doctors will need to know the name and dosage of your epilepsy medicine. Check with your pharmacist first before using an over-the-counter medicine.
Automatic Text Reminders from the Epilepsy Foundation of America®
Texting 4 Control, a new texting initiative from the Epilepsy Foundation and Care Epilepsy to assist in seizure management. It is a new system targeted to users aged 13 and older with mobile phones that allows you to receive reminders via text messaging about when to take medications, as well as receive motivational messaging if you are having a particularly tough week managing your epilepsy. The program also allows for recording of seizures in a patient diary, as well as tracking emergency room visits, rescue medications, and/or injuries. The system allows you to see your seizure pattern in graph or calendar form, as well as share that information with your neurologist or epileptologist.

Sign up for: Texting 4 Control.

Creating a Safer Environment for Yourself

At Home
  • Do a survey of your home to identify important safety measures you can take.
  • Set the water heater low enough to prevent scalding
  • Take sit-down showers if seizures are frequent
  • Leave bathroom doors unlocked
Living & Family Rooms
  • Use safety screens on the fireplaces
  • Secure space heaters so they cannot be tipped over
  • Pad sharp corners
  • Carpet floors
  • Serve yourself and others directly from the stove, so you don’t have to carry hot dishes
  • Use a microwave oven for cooking
  • Place counter-top appliances far away from the kitchen sink
At Work
  • People with epilepsy hold a variety of jobs. If your seizures are under excellent control, you can do any job. If they are not under control, then you will need to analyze whether or not your current job places you at risk for injury.
  • You may want to learn how to talk comfortably with your employer about your epilepsy. It is important to educate your co-workers about keeping you safe in the event of a seizure.
In The Car
  • If seizures have been under control for a length of time, people with seizures can obtain a driver’s license. Most states define seizures as being under control if there has not been a seizure for 3 to 12 months. The actual length of time varies by state.
  • A common side of effect of epilepsy medicine is drowsiness. You should avoid driving until you have adjusted to the medication.
  • If you have had a seizure and need to go to your doctor or the hospital, ask someone to drive you.
At Leisure
  • Physical activity can help you feel more self-confident, look your best, and lift your spirits. Walking along a designated walking path is a good place to start.
  • To exercise safely, talk to your doctor about your seizure control. Participating in specific activities such as swimming and football should be considered on an individual basis. You and your doctor will need to discuss the potential risks.

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Managing Epilepsy