First aid and water safety information

Many people living with epilepsy will be able to safely enjoy the water. However, it is important to assess each situation individually and to consult your GP.

Considerations should include:

  • the person’s epilepsy;
  • their age;
  • their abilities;
  • any other disabilities;
  • the swimming/activity location;
  • support person to help supervise/assist in an emergency

Supervision ensures safety!

Supervision ensures people with epilepsy can participate safely in water activities. Even those with well-controlled epilepsy should NEVER swim alone.  Important things to consider about supervision include:

  • a dedicated 1:1 spotter or swimming companion if possible;
  • people with uncontrolled epilepsy should have two people accompany them-one should remain in the pool and one as a spotter outside the pool;
  • companion/spotter should maintain constant supervision, eye contact and/or stay within an arm’s reach of the person with epilepsy at all times;
  • companion/spotters should be aware of the person’s seizure types and appropriate first aid

General water safety recommendations

  • ALWAYS seek advice from your doctor before swimming
  • inform any lifeguard of the potential risk of a seizure occurring
  • wear a brightly covered swimming cap/costume to help ensure easy identification
  • avoid resting on the edge of a body of water
  • swimming programs may require a letter from your doctor/an epilepsy management plan 
  • liaise with your school about swimming lessons and supervision for child/ren living with epilepsy
  • if you have uncontrolled seizures you should consider wearing a safety vest/lifejacket– see Maritime Safety Queensland
Do not swim or continue to swim if fatigued, feeling unwell, having missed medication or experiencing warning signs of a seizure.

First aid for seizures for occurring in water

A seizure in water is a life-threatening situation. In certain situations, a loss of consciousness is especially dangerous and emergency care must go beyond the routine procedures. 

If someone is having a seizure in water e.g. bath, swimming pool or ocean::

DO

  • Support the person in the water with the head tilted so the face and head stay above the surface.
  • Remove the person from the water as soon as the active movements of the seizure have ceased.
  • Check to see whether the person is breathing and whether they have a pulse. If they are not breathing but have a pulse start mouth to mouth resuscitation and immediately call 000 / 112. 
  • Even if the person appears to be fully recovered, call an ambulance. The person should have a full medical check as inhaling water can cause lung or heart damage.
If a seizure happens out of the water during swimming activity, the person should not continue with swimming or water sports that day, even if the person appears to be fully recovered.