Epilepsy is a common condition of the brain in which a person has a tendency to have recurrent unprovoked seizures.

Approximately 70 percent of people with epilepsy gain control of their seizures with medication. People who continue to have seizures are more vulnerable to the potential risks associated with seizures, especially when seizures occur without warning and impair awareness.

Epilepsy, like other long-term conditions such as asthma or diabetes, comes with certain risks. If left unchecked these can become very serious.

Seizure-related risks are higher when people have poorly controlled seizures. Good seizure control is the first step in reducing seizure-related risks.

Seizures can sometimes lead to injuries or falls, and they can occasionally be more serious – even contributing to, or causing, death. Different types of seizures carry different risks.

Your risk level depends on the type of seizures you have, and your lifestyle. For instance, poorly controlled tonic-clonic seizures pose the highest safety risk, and if you take part in activities such as mountain climbing, this risk is increased.

Life is never risk-free, but taking positive action to reduce your seizures, thinking about risks specific to you and discussing seizure management with your doctor are a start to reducing some of your seizure-related risks.

Epileptic seizure first aid

If you are with someone having a tonic-clonic seizure (where the body stiffens, followed by general muscle jerking), try to:

  • Stay calm and remain with the person.
  • If they have food or fluid in their mouth, roll them onto their side immediately.
  • Keep them safe and protect them from injury.
  • Place something soft under their head and loosen any tight clothing.
  • Reassure the person until they recover.
  • Time the seizure, if you can.
  • Gently roll the person onto their side after the jerking stops.

Do not put anything into their mouth or restrain or move the person, unless they are in danger.

If a person having a seizure is in a wheelchair

If a person has a seizure when they are in a wheelchair, car seat or stroller:

  • Leave the person seated with the seatbelt on (unless it is causing injury).
  • Put the wheelchair brakes on.
  • If it is a tilt wheelchair, tilt the seat and lock in position.
  • Support their head until the seizure has ended.
  • Lean the person slightly to one side to aid drainage of any fluid in the mouth.

After the seizure, if the person is having trouble breathing or they need to sleep, take them out of the chair and put them in the recovery position.