Keeping safe 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, or monitor, to get help when they have a seizure. This can be 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 or jerk during a seizure. Having a key safe installed outside your front door means others can get in to help you. 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', and some alarms can be linked to a community alarm service.
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, and that the batteries are checked 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. Anti-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.
Keeping floor space free of clutter may help.
Using protective covers on sharp edges of furniture, or having furniture with rounded edges, may avoid injury if you fall against it.
Try to avoid glass furniture, such as tables, if possible, as it can cause injury if you fall on it and it breaks.
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. It 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.
- Open fires and gas fires are best avoided.
- Covering hot pipes with lagging can prevent injury if you grip them or fall against them.
Depending on how your seizures affect you, you may want to consider living on one level.
- 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.
- 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.
You may wish to use the 'message in a bottle' scheme, where you can keep all your personal and medical details, including details of your medication, on a form that you keep in a special bottle in your fridge. Bottles are usually available from GP surgeries or pharmacies or you can call the Lions Club for more information on 0845 833 9502.
In the kitchen
Ideas for making cooking safer
Using a microwave
- Microwave ovens are 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
- 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.
- Induction hobs only heat up when a pan is placed onto the hob ring or plate, making them safer than gas hobs. Some cookers have an automatic switch-off feature if the hob is accidentally left on or covered by an object such as clothing.
- 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.
- Thermal mugs with lids can help to protect you if you spill a hot drink during a seizure.
- Using a tumble dryer may reduce the need for ironing.
- 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.
Products may be available from local or online suppliers. Independent organisations such as Disabled Living Foundation can provide product reviews.
In the bathroom
Ideas for making your bathroom safer
- Doors that open outwards or 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 anti-slip flooring may be safer than polished floors.
Having a shower can be safer than having a bath because the water drains away. This will significantly 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 give 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. If there is a cubicle door, it is safer if it opens outwards.
- A 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 anti-slip shower mats can also help reduce injuries if you fall.
Having a bath carries higher risks than having a shower. If you have 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 mattress on the floor, 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.
Safety pillows have small holes in so that if you are sleeping face down you may be able to breathe more easily. However, there is no evidence that they are safer than ordinary pillows.
Call our helpline for information.
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, and whether someone else could do it instead.
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 artificial grass means that there is no need to use a lawn mower.
- 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. A cordless or battery mower is safer.
If you have a pond, here are some safety tips that may be helpful.
- Having 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 it can provide a safety barrier.
- 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.
- RiDC 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 booklet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer, or download the pdf using the link below.
Please note: Epilepsy Society does not endorse any suppliers of safety aids or equipment. Other companies may also provide these products.