Many people living with epilepsy will be able to safely enjoy the water. However, it is important to assess each situation individually, taking into consideration the person’s epilepsy, their age, abilities, any other disabilities, the location in which they are going to be swimming, and if there are any other supports/people around that may be able to help supervise or provide assistance in the event of an emergency.
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 to maintain constant supervision, eye contact and/or stay within an arm’s reach of you at all times.
• Companion/spotters should be aware of your seizure types & know what to do in the event of a seizure
Other key points:
- Always seek advice from your doctor before swimming
- Inform the life guard (if available) of the potential risk of a seizure occurring
- A brightly covered swimming cap or swimming costume can help ensure quick and easy identification
- Avoid resting on the edge of a body of water
- If flickering or reflective light is a potential trigger for your seizures, try wearing tinted goggles or sunglasses
- If you have had brain surgery check with your doctor before diving
- Do not swim or continue to swim if fatigued, feeling unwell, having missed medication or experiencing warning signs of a seizure
- Avoid swimming under water for long periods of time as this can cause hyperventilation, a potential trigger for seizures
- Swimming programs, both private or school based may require a letter from your doctor (approving participation) & an epilepsy management plan
- If a tonic-clonic seizure occurs before/during water activities, the person should not continue swimming or participate in water activities that day, even if they have fully recovered
- People with uncontrolled seizures should consider wearing a safety vest that helps keep their head above water. According to Maritime Safety Queensland lifejackets fall into two broad categories:
- Inflatable (can be either self-inflating or automatic
If a lifejacket is worn it is very important to ensure it is correctly fitted for each individual. Maritime Safety Queensland is currently running the Life-jacket wear it campaign which stresses that lifejackets are not an optional safety feature and encourages us to think of lifejackets as the seat belts of the sea.
If you have any queries about water safety contact the team at Epilepsy Queensland Inc. who will be happy to help you. Call: (07) 3435 5000 or 1300 852 853 (outside Brisbane).
Maritime Safely Queensland
Epilepsy Queensland Inc.