Epilepsy in the Workplace ΓÇô How Much Do You Know?
19th-25th May is National Epilepsy Week. To help raise awareness, weΓÇÖre taking a look at common misconceptions about epilepsy in the workplace.
1. None of my co-workers has epilepsy
Many people with epilepsy tell colleagues about their condition, so that they can be prepared if they have a seizure at work. However, telling co-workers about their condition isnΓÇÖt compulsory and some people donΓÇÖt feel that itΓÇÖs necessary ΓÇô itΓÇÖs a matter of personal choice.
2. Epilepsy affects your ability to do your job
Not all people with epilepsy find that it interferes with their working day ΓÇô some only have seizures when theyΓÇÖre asleep, while others may not have had a seizure for years.
Even for people who have regular seizures, having epilepsy doesnΓÇÖt have to prevent them making a full contribution at work ΓÇô although they may need to make adjustments to accommodate their condition.
3. The office isnΓÇÖt a safe environment for people with epilepsy
The typical office environment usually poses a low risk for people with epilepsy, compared with other types of environment such as construction sites, restaurant kitchens or factories with heavy machinery. Although some computer screens (particularly older models) can trigger seizures among people with photosensitive epilepsy, these account for a very small proportion of all seizures.
4. I know what a seizure looks like
Most of us probably have an idea of what a seizure looks like. Actually, there are around forty different types of seizure and it would be difficult to recognise them all. One of the most common types is the tonic-clonic seizure, where a person will go stiff and lose consciousness, often followed by falling to the ground and jerking or convulsing.
However, other types of seizure can look very different. A person having a myoclonic seizure will experience jerking in one or both arms, while someone having an atonic seizure will drop heavily to the floor before getting up again almost immediately.
5. I would be able to tell if a colleague was having a seizure
Not necessarily. Absence seizures can be very difficult to spot, as the person can appear to be daydreaming when they have actually lost consciousness for a brief period of time.
6. Flashing lights cause seizures
Reflex epilepsies, where seizures are caused by a specific trigger, are actually very rare. The most widely known trigger is flashing lights (known as photosensitive epilepsy) but other triggers can include specific music, patterns and even activities such as reading.
7. I donΓÇÖt know what to do
Being prepared is the first step for helping a colleague with epilepsy. Many people will work with their employer to develop a care plan which may outline what colleagues can do to help. You may even get training from your employer.
Even if your colleague doesnΓÇÖt have a specific care plan, you can still be prepared. It will help if you can recognise different types of seizure because they require different responses. The two most common types are tonic-clonic seizures and focal seizures.
In both cases, you should be calmly reassuring and stay with the person until they are fully recovered. You shouldnΓÇÖt attempt to restrain them or bring them round. In a tonic-clonic seizure, you should also cushion the personΓÇÖs head to protect them from injury and, once the seizure has finished, move them into the recovery position to aid breathing.
Epilepsy Action provides excellent and detailed
first aid advice for tonic-clonic and focal seizures which should help you to feel more prepared.
Learn more about epilepsy and how you can help at