9 Little Ways to Help Avoid a Seizure Injury at Home
Your home is your haven, a respite from the rest of this sometimes-maddening world. So of course you want to feel safe there, even (make that especially) in the event of a seizure. While seizures usually aren’t dangerous in and of themselves, the bigger risk is injuring yourself during one, whether it’s falling down the stairs or burning yourself on the stove. “You can’t bubble wrap yourself, and there’s always going to be some risk of injury,” says Jessica Fesler, M.D., a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Epilepsy Center. “But look around and ask yourself: If I have a seizure in this setting, what are my potential dangers?” Here’s where to start.
Be Smart About the Stove
One of the biggest concerns during a seizure is exposure to heat or open flames. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you feel about cooking!) you don’t need to stay away from the stove because of your condition. Just keep hot pans away from the front and cook over the back burners, suggests George Nune, M.D., assistant professor of clinical neurology at the University of Southern California. If you have frequent or unpredictable seizures, it’s a good idea to cook food in the micro and limit your use of the stove and oven. Meal-delivery service to the rescue!
Be Picky About Your Furniture
That glass coffee table may look gorge, but if it shattered? Shudder. When furnishing your space, look for non-breakable surfaces and rounded edges. Sharp edges and materials like glass can severely injure you if you fall on them during a seizure. It’s also smart to clear out clutter and move fragile objects to a high shelf. For items like picture frames or mirrors that are traditionally made of glass, look for versions made from acrylic or shatter-proof materials.
Don't Let Your Floors Go Naked
Hard floor surfaces like wood or tile can cause serious harm if you fall during a seizure, especially if you hit your head. Installing wall-to-wall carpeting is the best choice, since you’re less likely to trip on it, but large, non-slip area rugs are also a safe option. For the kitchen or bathroom, go for tiles made of softer (and very much in style) materials like cork or rubber.
Watch Your Steps!
If a move is in your future anyway, it’s smart to look for a home that doesn’t have long flights of stairs, especially if you live alone. Climbing stairs can be dangerous in the event of a seizure. Similarly, “if you’re in an apartment building without an elevator, see if you can move to a first-floor unit,” suggests Dr. Fesler. Parents of children with epilepsy can install auto-locking gates at the bottom or top of any staircases, so your kiddo can’t navigate them without supervision.
Steer Clear of Heights
Stairs aren’t the only concern during a seizure—you also have to be extra careful when it comes to heights. “Especially when patients are first diagnosed, I tell them to avoid balconies, lofts, or ladders,” Dr. Fesler says. If you have a history of nighttime seizures, look for a low-profile platform bed, rather than a tall bed frame. And if it’s your little one who has seizures in his sleep, put the kibosh on bunk beds and up the fun factor with funky patterned sheets and pillows instead.
Protect Against Shocks
If your condition is severe, know that even small handheld appliances can be dangerous if they’re hot or sharp. That includes irons, curling irons, hair dryers, and power tools, especially those that don’t have a “kill switch” or automatic shut-off. Space heaters can also be hazardous if they’re accidentally knocked over. “Another important consideration is the risk of electrocution,” says Dr. Kesler. To reduce your risk of shock, choose cordless appliances whenever possible, and be sure to step far back from any source of water if you’re using an appliance that’s plugged into the wall.
Keep an Open Door Policy
We all need privacy now and then. But locking a bathroom or bedroom door behind you can make it harder for someone to reach you in an emergency. Try to leave doors unlocked—and train your tribe to knock before entering or hang a “privacy please” sign on the door if need be. If you live alone, consider installing a keypad or combination lock on the front door and giving the code to trusted friends or neighbors.
Suds Up in the Shower, Not the Bath
Remember learning that it only takes a few inches of water to drown? One study found that the risk of drowning among people with epilepsy was 15 to 19 times higher compared with the general population. If your condition is severe, it’s worth being mindful of this risk, and opting for showers instead of baths. And if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard pool, always swim with a pal.
Make Your Home Gym Safe
Exercising at home (or anywhere else), is a definite yes, but be smart about your equipment. “People with epilepsy often complain about memory problems, and aerobic exercise is one of the best things you can do for your memory,” says Dr. Nune. “But you do have to be mindful of safety.” Activities like lifting weights are best performed under supervision. And think carefully about using a treadmill, especially at home. “You have to consider: If I lost control while doing this, how badly could I be injured?”