Skip the primary navigation if you do not want to read it as the next section.
Skip the main content if you do not want to read it as the next section.
Leisure and other activities FAQs
Answers to frequently asked questions on leisure and other activities.
I have just been diagnosed with epilepsy: what can I do and not do?
There is no one answer to this question.
It might help to ask yourself a few questions.
- What would you like to do?
Does your epilepsy make these things difficult or risky?
Are you still having seizures and what are they like - how do they affect you?
What might make these things safer for you?
By looking at what you'd like to do, you can consider what risks having a seizure might cause in each situation. For example, if you like cycling but you have seizures where you become unconscious, what could happen if you have a seizure while cycling? Is there anything you could do to make the situation safer? Could you go cycling with someone who would know what to do if you had a seizure? Or could you take a different cycle path where there is less traffic? Often the key is to look at getting a balance between doing all the activities you want to, and ways to keep you safe and reduce any risk that your epilepsy might cause. Doing a risk assessment might help to identify any risks and ways to them.
The one thing someone who has seizures can't do is drive. If you have a seizure and you are a driver, you have to stop driving and tell the DVLA (the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). This is the law. If you then become seizure-free for a year you can apply to start driving again.
My child has epilepsy and is not allowed to take part in some activities, such as swimming. Is this necessary?
Epilepsy is different for everyone. So before making any decisions about what someone can and can't do, it is important to look at what the activity is, and what the person's epilepsy is like. This means that people will not be stopped from doing certain activities just because they have epilepsy. And many leisure activities can be made safer with some safety precautions.
If your child's seizures are controlled - so she does not have seizures - then she may be at no greater risk doing activities such as swimming than someone without epilepsy.
If your child is still having seizures, it might be helpful to consider the following.
- What risks might the seizures cause when swimming?
How frequent are their seizures?
Do they have any warning before a seizure (and so could let someone know)?
What can be done to make this safer? For example, could they swim with someone else who would know what to do if they did have a seizure?
Most pools have a lifeguard who keep an eye out for anyone in distress. Looking at these types of things helps to build up a risk assessment of how risky an activity is, and what can reasonably be done to reduce risks.
Is it safe for me to drink alcohol? What about taking recreational drugs?
For most people with epilepsy, the occasional alcoholic drink is not a problem. However, with certain anti-epileptic drugs, it is recommended that you avoid alcohol. The patient information leaflet that comes with your medication will say whether to avoid alcohol. Also, for some people, having too much alcohol or having a hangover might trigger a seizure.
Recreational drugs have risks for people with epilepsy, as some have been shown to trigger seizures or interact with anti-epileptic drugs.
You can find out more detail on this subject on our leisure pages.
Is it safe for me to use a computer and watch television?
For most people with epilepsy, watching TV and using computers won't be a problem and won't cause seizures.
Up to 5% of people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy. This means that they have seizures triggered by certain frequencies of flashing and flickering lights. This might be a TV or computer screen, the pattern of sunlight reflecting on a swimming pool, or moving geometric patterns like watching a moving escalator.
Whether you are photosensitive or not will usually be found when you have an EEG (electroencephalogram). Part of the EEG test is called 'photic stimulation' which means that a flashing light will be used to see if you react to it and are photosensitive.
Even if you are photosensitive, this doesn't always mean that watching TV or using a computer will trigger seizures. What is important is the flicker frequency of the screen (the number of flashes per second), and many TVs and computers either flicker at a higher frequency than is likely to cause a problem, or have screens that do not flicker. And there are some tips that can help if someone is photosensitive.
© Epilepsy Society
Information updated in November 2012.