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Seizure smart swimming

What you need to know before you dive in

Research conducted by the Institute of Neurology at the University College London, indicated that people with epilepsy are up to 19 times more likely to drown than those in the general population.


Many of these deaths are preventable. Here are some tips for people with epilepsy to help them swim safely:

  • Before you go swimming, seek the advice of your doctor.
  • Always swim with another person who: is a strong swimmer, is aware of your seizures and how they manifest, and knows what to do in the event of a seizure, both in and out of the water.
  • Inform the lifeguard on duty of your seizure risk.
  • Do not swim or continue to swim if you are feeling tired or unwell, have missed taking your medication or have experienced any of your warning signs of an impending seizure.
  • Avoid hyperventilation if it has been identified as a trigger for you – for example, don’t swim underwater for long.
  • Wear tinted goggles in the water and sunglasses out of the water if flickering light is one of your seizure triggers.

Here are some basic guidelines to help you deal with a person having a seizure in water:

  • Holding the person from behind, tilt their head so that it is out of the water.
  • If possible, move the person to shallow water, holding their head above water.
  • Don’t place anything in their mouth.
  • Once the jerking movements have stopped, move them to dry land.
  • Place them on their side to recover.


Tips and guidelines courtesy of Epilepsy South Africa.

For more information: Share Call Number: 0860 EPILEPSY (0860 374537) or visit http://www.epilepsy.org.za

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