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Strictly speaking, epilepsy cannot be prevented. Patients should avoid putting themselves in situations that foster the onset of a seizure: overexertion, stress, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol consumption and all the factors that decrease the seizure threshold.

By definition, epileptic seizures are brutal and rarely anticipated. The priority is preventing patients from injuring themselves during a seizure. The role of family and friends is crucial here.

What should be done to stop the patient from hurting themselves when they are having a seizure with convulsions?
- Keep calm, don’t panic, the seizure won’t last forever;
- Carefully lay the person out straight and, as soon as possible, lay them on their side;
- Protect the patient’s head from potential injury;
- Do not move the person, except in order to protect them from potential harm;
- Ensure that the person can breathe without difficulty, particularly if their face has gone pale;
- Stay with the person until they recover, comfort them and help with any injuries;
- Do not prevent them from moving and don’t put anything in their mouth;
- Call an ambulance or the emergency services in the case of repeated seizures or if the person has difficulty breathing or has suffered any injuries;
- Stay with the patient once the seizure is over, because some people are confused and disoriented for several minutes after the apparent end of the seizure.

For other types of crisis, especially when people fall and recover with or without disorientation, family and friends should put them at ease, make sure that they have not been injured and stay with them until they have recovered completely. If the patient seems suddenly confused, tries to walk around aimlessly or exhibits strange behaviour (picking up objects, taking off their clothes...), it is not necessary to intervene unless they are in danger.

Improved education for the family and friends of the epilepsy patient

The impact of the illness is often more cultural than actual. A person with epilepsy who receives good treatment can lead a normal life. Clearly, however, there are certain risky professions or activities that are not recommended.

The issue of car driving is often raised. There are driving license committees made up of neurologists who can grant healthy and well-treated epilepsy patients, who have not had a seizure in a long time, the right to drive.

Ultimately, the role of family and friends is key. They need to know that epilepsy is not a personal flaw, but rather an illness that can be treated. Family and friends should familiarise themselves with their illness, learn to recognise a seizure when it is coming on and should develop good reflexes in the event of a seizure.

For further information: Epilepsy Action

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