Celebrating the Holidays and Summertime Safely!

Summer Fun
Community Corner: June 29, 2016

Epilepsy News From:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It’s summer time and the 4th of July is right around the corner. For many, it’s a time to get together with friends and family, go on vacation, watch fireworks, have a cookout, or go to the beach.  

This sounds like fun, but for someone with seizures, or if your loved one has seizures, safety concerns may arise. If you’re alone or can’t get to parties or outings safely, this can be a lonely and uncomfortable time. Both these scenarios can be quite difficult for families living with epilepsy, including the person with epilepsy and their families or friends. Here are a few things to think about as you prepare for the coming weeks. 

What triggers my seizures?

If flashing lights, patterns, or loud noises trigger seizures, think about fireworks and other celebrations in advance. 

  • If fireworks consistently bother you, avoid them. Watch them on TV if you can. 
  • Sometimes people do okay with fireworks if they sit far back, don’t look at them consistently (look away from the main stimulus frequently), use headphones (or earbuds) to dull the loud sounds, and find other ways of lessening the impact of lights, patterns, and loud sounds. 
  • Look at your habits in advance. Don’t attend parties, fireworks, or things that can be exhausting when you have many other seizure triggers going on. For example…
    • Be careful that you don’t miss meds around this time. 
    • Get enough sleep and “good” sleep - pulling all night parties is usually not a good idea for someone who is still having seizures. 
    • Are you eating regularly? If you are on a special diet for epilepsy, work out plans to stay on the diet at parties. For example, take some food with you that you can eat. Let your host know too.  
    • Can you pace yourself so you can get rest when you need it? Avoid going long periods without eating. Keep yourself hydrated; drink fluids in hot weather! Generally, pay attention to your overall health. These tactics can help lessen your risk of seizures. 
  • If you’re old enough to drink alcohol, have you talked to your epilepsy doctor or nurse first? Make sure you know what to do and what not to do. Drinking alcohol – especially too much or too fast – can affect seizures. 
  • Have you talked to your doctor/nurse about “recreational” and “illicit” drugs? Many of these can affect seizures too. This includes marijuana. Even though some substances in marijuana are being tested for the positive effects on seizures, some substances can worsen seizures. Get informed and be careful!

What safety concerns should I be aware of?

The type of seizures you have and how often will affect your risks of injury and types of safety plans to consider.

  • Know your seizure type and make a safety plan with your health care team. A plan should help you think, in advance, about what types of activities are okay, safety tips or equipment to have, and what to avoid. 
  • Use common sense with water safety. Don’t swim alone – use a buddy. Don’t swim over your head and/or use a lifevest around water. Have someone nearby who knows what to do if a seizure occurs AND knows lifesaving techniques. 
  • Sit far back from firepits or barbecues. This makes sense for anyone, but if you have seizures, you don’t want to fall forward into a fire during a seizure. 
  • Tell someone at the event or party that you have seizures and what to do if one occurs. Ideally this can be done in advance. Visit seizure first aid for easy ways to teach people.
  • Visit Staying Safe and check out our “Managing Epilepsy & Seizures” infographic for other tips and life hacks.

What if I don’t drive?

Getting to parties or getting anywhere is a major problem for people who can’t drive due to seizures. This can limit where you can go and when. Often people don’t like to ask for rides as they feel like a “burden” to others.

  • Don’t think of yourself as a burden. If you ask for a ride, can you offer something back in return?  
  • Check out the public transportation where you are going. Consider a train if flying isn’t an option for you. Regardless of how you travel, if you are having frequent seizures, make sure someone is with you who knows what to do. Take along your seizure response plan!
  • What activities are in your community? Often in summertime we think of getting away. We don’t look at what’s available in our own backyards! Staycations can be easy, fun, and financially easier than traveling in the summer. You’d be amazed at what you’ll find. Talk to a friend about joining you for a staycation and plan things you would normally not do. 

What about families and caregivers?

Epilepsy affects everyone – family members and loved ones may worry about how to handle holidays and summertime too.

  • Plan time for yourself. If you (the family member or caregiver) are not feeling well or exhausted, you are no good to yourself or anyone else! Put yourself first.
  • Can you get respite help for your child or loved one with seizures? If you don’t have someone immediately available, call your local Epilepsy Foundation for resources in your area.
  • Think about how to make family and vacation time easier. Can you avoid the complicated or risky things? The vacation time won’t be relaxing for you if you’re worrying about others all the time.
  • If you’re traveling a distance, carry a seizure bag with you. Include everything you may need if your loved one has a seizure – medicine, rescue plan, change of clothes, at a minimum.
  • Don’t overschedule yourself or your family. Make downtime a fun time. Planning relaxing activities when everyone can rest can be fun and helpful for all.
  • Watch screen time. Computers, tablets, and phones are great for so many things. Yet they can also get in the way of family time. For some people with seizures, too much screen time with fast paced games with flashing lights could affect their seizures. Set rules in advance. How will your family handle screen time?

These are just a few things to think about to help you have a fun and relaxing holiday and summertime. To use this list, first think about your priorities and risks – what are the things you need to consider? What’s important to you?  Then pick out 1 or 2 areas to focus on and see how you can make this work. 

Wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday!

Best wishes, 

Patty Osborne Shafer RN, MN
Associate Editor/Community Manager

Authored by: Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN | MN | Associate Editor / Community Manager on 6/2016

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