Safety at home
If your seizures are controlled by treatment, your safety may not be affected. But if you continue to have seizures, safety may be an issue. Some safety issues may not be relevant to you or you may have your own ideas about what would make situations safer for you. Here are some suggestions to help you think about your safety at home.
Around the house
Some people with epilepsy choose to have an alarm to get help when they have a seizure. This can be particularly helpful if you have seizures at night or if you live alone.
There are different types of alarm for different types of seizure. Some have a button to press if you know a seizure is going to happen. Others are triggered if you fall with no warning or if you shake (convulse) during a seizure. See more about alarms and safety aids.
Alarm systems may be available through local social services departments or housing associations as part of a 'needs assessment'.
If you have a seizure while cooking or smoking, there is a risk of fire.
The UK Fire Service recommends that everyone has a smoke alarm on each level of their home (for example, one upstairs and one downstairs) and that you check the batteries regularly.
Fire-resistant fabrics and furniture are recommended for everyone but will still catch fire if the heat is intense enough.
Your local fire and rescue service can provide a free safety check for your home.
Floors and furnishings
Some types of hard flooring, such as ceramic tiles, could injure you if you fall on to them. Non-slip flooring, linoleum (lino), cushioned flooring or carpets may reduce the risk of an injury if you fall. Cushioning underneath carpets, such as padded underlay, may reduce the risk of injuries further. Avoiding coarse fabrics may reduce the risk of friction burns if you have convulsive seizures.
Using protective covers on sharp edges of furniture, or having furniture with rounded edges, may avoid injury if you fall against it.
Flooring guidance and protective corners may be available from local or online suppliers.
If you fall against glass during a seizure and it breaks, you could be injured. This includes furniture such as glass tables.
New homes built since 1994 in the UK use safety glass for windows to reduce the risk of injuries. Safety glass is designed to be difficult to break or to hold together if it is broken.
Replacing glass in older buildings with safety glass might be helpful. Alternatively, safety glass film prevents glass shattering if it gets broken. This is a plastic film can be fitted onto glass doors and windows, and is available from some glazing companies and online suppliers.
Heating your home
The following tips might lower the risk of injury during a seizure.
- Radiator covers may reduce injury and burns if you fall against them during a seizure.
- Using heaters that are secured to the wall or floor means you can't knock them over.
- Fixing a fireguard to the floor can stop you falling into an open fire.
- Covering hot pipes with lagging can prevent injury if you grip them or fall against them.
Depending on how your seizures affect you, there may be a risk of falling down the stairs.
- Going up the stairs on your hands and feet, and coming down the stairs on your bottom may reduce risks of injury if a seizure happens.
- Padded hand rails may help to steady you, or reduce injury if you fall against them.
- Stair gates at the top of the stairs may prevent you falling down the stairs. However, gates should be higher than waist height to reduce the risk of you falling over the top of the gate.
- Some people may have the option of a toilet, bathroom or bedroom downstairs, to reduce the need for using the stairs.
To avoid other people taking your medication accidentally, it is best to keep it locked away or out of reach.
Drug wallets can help you to store medication, and to remember to take it.
In the kitchen
Ideas for making cooking safer
- Turning saucepan handles to the side can help prevent pans being knocked off the cooker.
- Using rings or burners at the back of the hob can be safer than using those at the front.
- Using a gas or halogen hob means that heat can be turned off quickly. Some cookers have an automatic switch-off feature if the hob is accidentally left on or covered by an object such as clothing. Others only heat up when a pan is placed onto the hob ring or plate.
- A cooker guard around the front of the hob means that the rings or burners are harder to touch by accident, which may reduce risks of burns if you lose some awareness during seizures. However, if you fall as part of your seizures, a cooker guard could cause injury if you fall onto it, depending on the design.
- Using a low-level grill instead of an eye-level grill can help reduce the risk of injuring your face if you have a seizure.
- Having a heat-resistant work surface means you can slide heavy pans across the work surface rather than lifting them.
- Using a cooking basket inside a saucepan means you can lift the basket out after cooking and the hot water drains back into the pan.
- Using a trolley to transfer food from the cooker to the table means that you don't have to carry hot or heavy dishes.
Making hot drinks
- Cordless kettles that switch off automatically and have a lid that ‘locks’ shut can help prevent scalds.
- A kettle tipper (cradle) helps you to pour hot water without lifting the kettle.
- Cups with plastic lids can help to protect you if you spill a hot drink during a seizure.
Using a microwave
Microwave ovens can be safer than conventional ovens as they turn off automatically after the cooking time has ended. This means there is less chance of food burning or a fire starting if you leave it unattended. The outside of a microwave may stay cool, so it is less likely than an oven to cause burns if touched.
Drinks can also be heated in a microwave. Stirring the drink will disperse any uneven ‘hot spots’ which could burn your mouth.
- Cordless irons that switch off automatically after a set time, and have no cable to trip over, can reduce the risk of burns if you have a seizure while ironing.
- Using a tumble dryer may reduce the need for ironing.
Products may be available from local or online suppliers. Independent organisations such as Disabled Living Foundation and provide product reviews.
In the bathroom
Ideas for making your bathroom safer
- Doors that open both ways can make it easier for other people to get to you if you have a seizure and need help. An alternative is a concertina door, or one that slides sideways.
- Locks that can be opened from the outside, or an 'Engaged' sign on the door instead of a lock, allows privacy but means that someone else can open the door if you need help.
- Using plastic containers for toiletries rather than glass can reduce the chances of injury if you knock them over.
- Floor tiles made of rubber or non-slip flooring may be safer than polished floors.
Having a shower can be safer than having a bath because the water drains away. This can lower the risk of drowning if you have a seizure.
If you are choosing a new shower or changing your existing one, the following tips may help.
- Avoid showers with high-sided bases as the water level can rise if the drain is covered. Level access (walk-in) showers or wet rooms provide easy access, and can reduce the number of hard surfaces to fall against, such as the side of a bath.
- A shower curtain, rather than a screen or door, might make it easier for someone to get to you quickly if you have a seizure.
- A fitted, padded shower seat may help reduce the risk of injury if you fall during a seizure.
- Soap trays set into the wall (instead of sticking out) and non-slip shower mats can also help reduce injuries if you fall.
If you choose to have a bath, or if there is no shower, then the following may help to reduce risks.
- If possible, having a bath when there is someone else around means that they can help you if you have a seizure.
- Using a listening monitor (such as a baby monitor) might make it easier for someone outside the room to hear that you are OK, while still giving you some privacy.
- Running a shallow bath and putting cold water in first can help prevent scalds if you have a seizure and fall into the water.
- Fitting thermostatically controlled taps means that the water will not get too hot. A qualified plumber can fit these for you.
In the bedroom
If there is a risk of you falling out of bed during a seizure, then having a low-level bed or futon means there is less distance to fall and may lower the chance of injury.
Sleeping in the middle of a large bed also reduces the risk of falling out of bed during a seizure.
Padded bed sides are available to help prevent injuries during a seizure or stop you falling out of bed. However, these should be considered with care as it is possible for your arms or legs to become trapped or injured, depending on the design of the bed sides and how your seizures affect you.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises that a risk assessment should be carried out before fitting bed sides, to make sure that they are right for your needs, and that they fit your mattress and bed safely.
Some people who have seizures during the night have a bed alarm that detects when they have a seizure. See more about alarms and safety aids or see Disabled Living Foundation's information on alarms.
Some people who have seizures while they are asleep use safety or ‘anti-suffocation’ pillows. The pillows have small holes in so that if you are sleeping face down you may be able to breathe more easily.
Safety pillows are available from online suppliers, or contact our helpline for supplier details.
Gardening and DIY
If you have seizures and would like to do your own home improvements, it may be helpful to think about the type and frequency of your seizures and the potential risks of each job.
Knowing your own abilities may help reduce the risks of accidents or injuries. If you are not sure about doing a job yourself, you may want to talk to a professional such as an electrician, plumber or gardener.
For anyone doing DIY, it is important to take proper safety measures. If you have seizures there may be other safety issues to consider. For example, if you need to do a job at a height using a ladder, it is important to think about the risk of falling if you have a seizure.
Power tools that have a safety cut-out and use batteries rather than mains power may be safer, as there is no power cord to damage if you have a seizure while using them. Using a circuit breaker at the socket can help protect against the risk of electrocution.
- Grass or bark chippings are a softer alternative to concrete or gravel and may reduce the risk of a severe injury if you fall.
- Using a petrol lawn mower means there is no chance of cutting through the cable if you have a seizure.
- Some mowers will stop automatically when the handle is released. If you do use an electric mower, a circuit breaker at the plug helps protect against electrocution.
If you have a pond, or you plan to build one, here are some safety tips that may be helpful.
- Putting a pond near the house can make it easier for someone to see and help you if you have a seizure and fall in.
- Having a fence around a large pond can provide a safety barrier.
- Planting bushes or shrubs around the deeper side of a pond can stop you getting too close to the edge.
- It may be possible to fit a safety grid that sits just below the surface of the water. This can hold your weight if you fall on it, without spoiling the look of the pond.
- Disabled Living Foundation provides information on alarms, living aids, safety products and suppliers.
- Rica carries out product reviews on safety aids and equipment.
Call our helpline for more information or to talk through any queries you have about safety.
For more information about safety and leisure activities, see our page on leisure and epilepsy.
Taken from our Safety leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer.
Please note: Epilepsy Society does not endorse any suppliers of safety aids or equipment. Other companies may also provide these products.