Swimming and Epilepsy – Staying safe in the water

12th March 2018

Swimming and water sports, in general, carry an inherent risk for people with epilepsy due to the danger of having a seizure in the water. Some may even choose to avoid the water altogether, however, with some preparation and making a few safety modifications there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to swim.

Here are our top tips for staying safe in the water:

#1 – Swim with a partner

It’s highly recommended that you always swim with someone who is aware of your epilepsy and knows what to do in the event of a seizure. It can be a friend or family member who feels confident enough that they could help you if you should need it.

#2 – Tell staff and lifeguards

If you’re swimming in a pool or water park then it’s always a good idea to alert staff, especially lifeguards, about your epilepsy and any special considerations you may require. If staff are aware then it’s likely they will be much quicker to react if you require help in the water.

#3- Use a lifejacket or floatation device

If you are experiencing seizures you may choose to wear a lifejacket or use a floatation device of some kind.

#4 – Be extra careful swimming in open water

A swimming pool is a moderately controlled environment where help is usually not far away, but if you’re planning to swim in open water (the sea, rivers, lakes etc.) then you should be cautious. There are other risks to consider in open water, such as deeper and colder water, currents, tides and possibly most importantly, a reduced chance of being seen should you get into trouble. In this situation, we would always advise that you take no unnecessary risks and if you do avoid deep, rough water.

What to do if someone you’re swimming with has a seizure…

It’s important to know the steps that must be taken should someone you’re swimming with has a seizure. Here are the five basic steps to assisting someone who is having a seizure in the water:

Step 1 – Support the person’s head and gently tilt it out of the water from behind

Step 2 – If possible, move the person to shallow water

Step 3 – Don’t restrain their movements as this can lead to injuring themselves

Step 4 – Once the seizure and jerking movements have stopped gently move them from the water

Step 5 – Place them in the recovery position on their side and wait with them until they feel better

You might be tempted to try and move them to dry land immediately, however, it’s actually safer for you to keep them in shallow water and provide support as there is less chance they could bring harm to themselves. If you are struggling to support them in the water, it might be advisable to ask for someone else to help.

For more advice on swimming with epilepsy or water sports in general, National Epilepsy Training are here to help. Call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk.