Despite progress in educating the public about epilepsy, some myths about epilepsy still exist. It helps to know what they are so you can let others know that they are not true. Here are some of the most common myths:
Myth: A person having a seizure can swallow their tongue, so you should put something in their mouth.
Fact: No one can swallow their tongue. Any efforts to hold the tongue down or put something in the mouth of a person having a seizure can hurt the teeth or jaw. Turning the person on their side will help to make sure that their airway is clear.
Myth: People with epilepsy are possessed by the devil, cursed, and/or spirited.
Fact: Epilepsy is simply a neurological (brain) disorder.
Myth: You should hold down a person who is having a seizure.
Fact: You should not hold down a person during a seizure. Holding someone down can cause a bone or muscular injury. Instead, make sure the area near the person is safe by moving aside any hard or sharp objects or furniture, and protect their head.
Myth: You should perform artificial respiration (CPR) on someone having a seizure.
Fact: Artificial respiration (CPR) is only needed if the person does not start breathing after the seizure has stopped.
Myth: People with epilepsy are mentally ill, or intellectually or developmentally disabled.
Fact: Epilepsy, mental illness, and intellectual or developmental disabilities are all different conditions that can affect the brain. If a person has epilepsy, it does not necessarily mean they have an intellectual disability or a mental illness.
Myth: You can tell that a person has epilepsy by the way they look.
Fact: There’s no way to tell that someone has epilepsy or seizures just by looking at them, unless they are having a seizure at that exact moment.
Myth: If someone in the family has epilepsy, the children will, too.
Fact: Epilepsy can happen when there’s no family history at all. Sometimes children of a parent with epilepsy will have seizures, but it’s far more likely that they will not. Epilepsy is rarely hereditary.
Myth: People with epilepsy may hurt other people during seizures.
Fact: People are most often unconscious during seizures. The person may struggle if held down but could not hurt anyone on purpose.