This information aims to show that, with a few sensible precautions, people with epilepsy can enjoy all the benefits of swimming quite safely. Swimming is often a very sociable activity.
Children, for example, may feel left out if they are barred from swimming just because of epilepsy, while all their classmates are playing or learning to swim in the pool. Such segregation increases the feeling of being ‘different’ or an outsider. Other children may then react unfavourably and the child with epilepsy can feel rejected.
Everyone should learn how to swim, especially children with epilepsy - it helps with selfconfidence, with social skills and relationships and most importantly, its fun!
Often, people with epilepsy may want to swim, but are prevented by family, friends, teachers or swimming pool staff. Other people sometimes imagine the worst and decide on their behalf that it is not worth the risk. If so, this this information should help calm those fears.
Research shows that few seizures actually occur in the water. This may be because when a person is enjoyably occupied they are less likely to have a seizure.
All sports and pastimes, including swimming, can help to improve seizure patterns in some people.
However, it is impossible to be certain that a seizure will not occur, so it is essential to follow a few simple safety measures.
Never swim alone do not take risks. Make sure there is a qualified lifesaver present (perhaps a friend or relative could learn).
If there isn’t one, swim no deeper than your supervisor’s or companion’s shoulder height.
Always tell a person in charge if you have epilepsy, and check that the person in charge or your companion knows what to do if you have a seizure.
If you can, practice with your companion what to do in the event of a seizure– this will boost your confidence and theirs.
Swimming in the sea, lakes or very cold water is dangerous– be sensible, if unwell, don’t swim, and try to avoid overcrowded situations.
People with epilepsy can find it embarrassing to be ’supervised’, especially if we are the only person being watched over.
Swimming in pairs will take attention away from the person with epilepsy and it enables supervision to be discreet.
How To Deal With A Seizure In The Water:
Not all people with epilepsy have convulsions.
Some may simply go blank for a few seconds (absences), others may make repeated, aimless movements for a minute or two (partial seizures).
These two seizure types do not usually require emergency action, but care needs to be taken that the person does not sink. When they recover, gently ask if they would like to get out of the water. They may not realise what happened or they may feel groggy.
The Basic Guidelines Are:
• Do not be afraid, the seizures will probably not last long.
• From behind, hold the swimmer’s head above water.
• If possible, tow the person to shallow water.
• Do not restrict movements or place anything in mouth.
• Once abnormal movement has stopped, move the swimmer to dry land.
• If water has been swallowed, take the usual resuscitation measures.
• Place the swimmer on his or her side to recover.
• Only call an ambulance if the person goes from one seizure to another without regaining consciousness or if the seizure lasts longer than normal, or if there is injury or a lot of water being swallowed. If possible, recovery should be in a private place.
• Stay with the person until they feel better.
It may be a good idea to speak to your doctor first, particularly if the epilepsy is largely uncontrolled.
You need to take into account the type, severity and frequency of the seizures, known triggers, such as noise, stress, excitement etc, whether there is any warning before a seizure and what supervision is available.
However, if you really want to swim, find a safe and suitable place to do it, using all the recommendations listed here.
People with epilepsy should not allow it to ruin their quality of life and being a nonswimmer is far more dangerous than learning to swim in a safe and supervised environment.