Doctor holding purple ribbon

Epilepsy Prevention and Precautions

Prevention

The causes of epilepsy are wide-ranging, but there are some things you can do to prevent or reduce your risk of developing epilepsy, according to the CDC:  

  • Reduce your risk of traumatic brain injury.
    • Use seat belts, child passenger seats, bicycle and motorcycle helmets
    • Prevent falls when possible
    • Treat traumatic brain injury
  • Reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease by eating a healthy diet, exercising and quitting smoking.
  • Keep vaccinations up to date. This lowers your chances of infections which can sometimes lead to epilepsy. 
  • Practice good hand washing and food safety habits to avoid an infection called cysticercosis, which is the most common cause of acquired epilepsy worldwide.
    • This parasitic tissue infection is caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium.
    • Highest rates of this infection are found in Latin America, Asia and Africa and places with poor sanitation.
  • Seek prenatal care and stay healthy during pregnancy.

Printable version of Seizure Precautions Handout.

Seizure Precautions

Triggers can make it more likely to have a seizure, but they do not actually cause seizures. The most common triggers are stress and not taking epilepsy medications. A trigger may not result in having a seizure every time, but knowing your individual triggers can help a person with epilepsy know when a seizure may be coming. Typical triggers, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, include:

  • Specific time of day or night
  • Sleep deprivation – overtired, not sleeping well, not getting enough sleep
  • At times of fevers or other illnesses
  • Flashing bright lights or patterns
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Stress
  • Associated with menstrual cycle (women) or other hormonal changes
  • Not eating well, low blood sugar
  • Specific foods, excess caffeine or other products that may aggravate seizures
  • Use of certain medications

A person with seizures may want to shower instead of bathe to avoid accidental drowning. If falls occur during the person's typical seizure, consider using a shower seat, preferably one with a safety strap.

  • Use non-skid strips in your shower or tub.
  • Never use electrical equipment near water. This prevents accidental electrocution.
  • Consider changing glass in shower doors to shatterproof glass.
  • If possible, cook when someone else is nearby.
  • Use the back burners of the stove to prevent accidental burns.
  • Use shatterproof containers as much as possible. For instance, sauces can be transferred from glass bottles to plastic containers.
  • Limit time that is required using knives or other sharp objects. If possible, buy foods that are already cut or ask someone to help in meal preparation.
  • Do not smoke or light fires in the fireplace unless someone else is present.
  • Do not use space heaters that can be accidentally overturned.
  • When alone, avoid using step stools or ladders. Do not clean rooftop gutters.
  • Purchase power tools and motorized lawn equipment which have a safety switch that will stop the machine if you release the handle.
  • Avoid driving unless your seizures are well controlled and/or you have permission to drive from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. General guide - Nebraska: 3 months seizure-free; Iowa: 6 months seizure-free.
  • If you ride a bicycle, wear a helmet and any other necessary protective gear.
  • When taking public transportation like the bus or subway, stay clear of the platform edge.
  • Swimming is okay, but does present certain risks. Never swim alone, and tell friends what to do if you have a seizure while swimming.
  • Wear appropriate protective equipment.
  • Ski with a friend. If a seizure occurs, your friend can seek help, if needed. He or she can also help to get you out of the cold. Consider using a safety hook or belt while riding the ski lift.
  • Feed, nurse, dress and change your infant while sitting on the floor in a well-protected area.
  • Childproof your house as much as possible. If you are home along with your child, consider using a safe play area or playpen. Use child safety gates to prevent a child from falling down stairs or to prevent your child from wandering in the event that you have a seizure.
  • As your child grows, explain what seizures are in terms that he or she can understand. Some people perform "seizure drills." Many people teach their children how to call 911 in an emergency.