Epilepsy and Swimming


I've recently been diagnosed with TLE, but have not been prescribed meds for it yet (the process is taking rather long). I've always enjoyed swimming and had planned to pick it up again. I'm okay with this, but my boyfriend is angry about my decision to go swimming. He says I should wait, and that it's too dangerous. I say that, as long as I'm with a friend who knows I have seizures (I've only had ONE since being diagnosed 4 months ago), and as long as there are lifeguards, I honestly believe I will be okay.

What do you think? Is it okay for me to go swimming? I can't just stop my life because I have epilepsy. Swimming is something that helps relax me and makes me happy, so I do not agree with my boyfriend and think he is being a bit ridiculous. I understand he worries about me, but it's my life, my decision...not his.



Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

I agree,  you should NOT let Epilespy ruin your life!!! But, If your seizures are not under control, I would say skip the pool until they are :) OR,  like you said, make sure someone is with you if you decide to go!  I go all the time and agree, It is a great way to relax.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

Thanks, I'm so glad you agree with me. I do agree that I should probably wait until I'm on meds and it's under control, but it could be months until it gets all straightened out (as I've said, the process is taking a very long time). Also, I've heard TLE is very hard to control, so it could be that it's never fully under control. I am itching to go swimming and cannot wait any longer! Thanks again for the reply.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

Yeah, definitely be careful until you have adjusted to any new meds. It's a give and take.I too was diagnosed TLE as an adult.

When I was first diagnosed, I had to put off driving for a while until I'd been on Keppra for several weeks. Now, years later, it's odd to think I ever considered that my options were limited. I go and go. I'm not stupid; I have to make sure I sleep enough and keep caffeine reasonable. But epilepsy has remained a tiny footnote on my life.

Good luck!

(fellow TLE lady) Juperee

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

I was diagnosed with Epilepsy in 2004.  I am a competitive triathlete.  I've found that as long as you notify the lifeguard before you go into the pool, it really isn't a big deal.  I did have a seizure in the pool once, but it was when I was changing meds.  I usually have trouble when I do that.  I go to the same pool all the time, and the lifeguard always knew it was a possibility.  Being a lifeguard is a pretty boring job just sitting there, so I think some of them are looking for some action anyway : ).  If you are with friends, just let them know what they need to do in case of a seizure.  I swim a 2.4 mile race in the open water every year, and I have a kayaker with me for support.  I refuse to sit home for the rest of my life waiting for my next seizure.  Not going to happen.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming


Amy, why is the med prescription taking so long?  Have you had diagnostic tests yet?

I agree with the others.  Epilepsy should not rule your life, but on the other hand, you DO have to be careful.  Don't go swimmiung alone.  Take a friend and make sure they know how to deliver first aid.

Here are suggestions for first aid while swimming from the EFA: 

"If a seizure occurs in water, the person should be supported in the water with the head tilted so his face and head stay above the surface. He or she should be removed from the water as quickly as possible with the head in this position. Once on dry land, he should be examined and, if he is not breathing, artificial respiration should be begun at once. Anyone who has a seizure in water should be taken to an emergency room for a careful medical checkup, even if he or she appears to be fully recovered afterwards. Heart or lung damage from ingestion of water is a possible hazard in such cases."      Phylis Feiner Johnson   www.epilepsytalk.com


Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

Hey phylis,

I've had one routine EEG so far. My seizure was 4 months ago, and I'm only now getting the results from that EEG and getting things moving to have the sleep deprivation EEG...which my neurologist suggested the one time I saw him. They didn't even call me when they received my results. 3 weeks later I was getting frustrated so I decided to call.. "oh yes, Amy, we received your results 5 days after you had the EEG. Would you like to schedule an appointment with your neurologist?". seriously...when did doctors stop caring about their patients? Sorry, I'm just ranting now.

I agree. As long as there are lifeguards and people around who know about my seizures, I'm sure I'd be fine. I would be extra careful of course. For example, if I have aura's the day before, i'm obviously not going to go swimming for a little while...just in case.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming


You should be much more agressive with your neurologist in getting you tested and diagnosed it is outrageous that it is taking this long. I would suggest getting a second opinion ASAP this isnt something you want to wait 4 months to be diagnosed or put on meds. I too agree that if you take the proper percautions you should be able to swim with a friend who knows the signs and symptoms of a siezure. I am an avided horseback rider and have never been told to stop riding just to wear my helmet and i know its different being in the water just becareful.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

to speed up the process for medication i reccommend a VEEG. It is a once in a lifetime thing and will give you tons of information. as far as swimming goes, you are risking your life. a seizure in the pool can kill you from drowning and can kill the life guard trying to save you. when you convulse in a seizure the life guard has no control and can not do anything because you will drown them un knowingly of course but the risk is too high. a woman named Chanda Gunn was put in your same shoes. a national swimmer had to quit but next thing you know she is on the woman's olympic hockey team and won gold in the olympics in italy. you should look her up on google and read her story. every single epileptologist has lost a patient because they drowned in either the pool or two feet of bath water.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

I don't disagree with you, but do your friends know what to look for as far as your seizures go?  Seizing in water can take away a life quite silently and unnoticed.  Even if there are lifeguards, I've never trusted them to save my life because there are too many distractions for them.  I am only in the water if my two closest friends are there (who know what to look for when I start seizing).  I used to swim competitively, but cannot because of my seizures.  Now I go running.  Yes, it is still dangerous, but I'm not in a situation where I could die from falling. 

I truly love the water, but you sort of have to figure which is more important: the water or your life.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

That is when I stopped diving. 

I did laps w/ my dad when I was younger.  When I was older my seizures started to get me confused.  I did water exercises and I did it with a lot of people in the pool and I was having more seizures and that is when I decided the pool was not a friend anymore. :(

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

Amy 1021,

 My father was an olympic pace swimmer.  I lived in the pool all the time.  When the seizures were evidenced I only went in the pool w/ someone  that was aware that I had them.  I have had 4 seizures in the pool.  Three times I ended in the ER.

When I woke up one time,   they had me on my back, pulling me out of the pool and I blacked out again.  I was not going to let it stop me because I felt I was part fish!    When I first had seizures, I swam all the time.  I did not have any trouble.  At this point 40 years later I moved to a different climate, it is more humid and I had a harder time breathing in the pool.  THis is when I had the trouble at the pool in the change of climate. It was from the west coast where I have lived all my life to the east coast which is new to me.

I started walking and I actuallly see beautiful people and fantastic sights. 

There is really no limit, I just think of it as new opportunities.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

Don't give up doing anything that you enjoy. I allowed the fear to take over my life, until I realized that I was missing out on everything. A seizure will happen "whenever". But life goes by quickly. And if other people try to take your happiness away, do without them. It's worth it in the end.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

Thank you so much everyone for the comments. I can see both sides of the argument clearly now, and realize that making this kind of decision requires thinking long and hard about it first. I've decided to wait until I get my meds straightened out, then try swimming. I understand it is a risk. It's just hard when you've been swimming all your life and then suddenly everything has changed...but I'm sure most people here can relate in one way or another.

Thanks again!

p.s. When I meet with my neuro on May 26, I plan to be much more aggressive to make this process go quicker, because along with losing my freedom to drive and swim, I am also losing my sanity. 

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming


I also had TLE do you have an aura with your epilepsy?  I always had an aura before I had a seizure, but as a teen, I was taking swimming lessons and out of embarassment didn't tell the instructor.  I had an aura mid lap and ended up having a seizure.  I was dragged out of the pool, my lungs burned from the clorine and inhaling water, but I did return to swimming lessons.  It was a lesson learned.  Good luck.


Re: Epilepsy and Swimming


It's encouraging to know that you continued swimming, however, I am really hoping that nothing like that happens to me in the pool (although I know it is definately possible). Yes, I've been having aura's for over a year now...it wasn't until I had the grand mal seizure that they started suspecting epilespy. I thought the aura's were actually panic attacks, as I have a history of depression and anxiety, and never bothered telling a doctor. My aura's occur within months of each other it seems. I will have about 20 in a day, but then not have another episode for a couple of months. Since I've had the grand mal, the aura's have become more intense I find. Although I had a lot of aura's the day before my grand mal, they don't seem to be good indicators that another seizure is coming. I hope everything is going well for you and don't stop doing what you love to do!

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

I have epilepsy and when i go swimming i make sure someone is in the pool with me and someone is outside the pool, but right by it.  just incase.  sometimes i have the aura and sometimes i dont, so i like to have someone with me.  i also keep the door cracked open when i shower and only shower when my husband is home.

Re: Epilepsy and Swimming

No one can say if it's ok for you to go swimming, that is your decision alone. It's a risk that you yourself are going to have to put on yourself and not others around you. Just make sure there are lifeguards nearby and that someone is swimming with you. Start out with simple pool sessions, don't try to do laps or heavy exercises, just have fun. When you feel you are ready, try to do a lap or two. Slowly progress, don't push your body too hard.

I've been having simple partials for about 6 years, I was diagnosed about 4 years ago and since then have experienced two gran mals. I still swim leisurely and do a lap or two without any problems. I mostly help my brother train for Air Force Para-Rescue. I have never had any kind of seizure in the pool.

I wish you the best of luck, swimming is great exercise, and it is really fun.