Girl Thinking

About Epilepsy

Safety and Driving

Tips to help reduce the risks associated with epilepsy

There are always risks involved with any diagnosis. With epilepsy/seizure disorder, you can reduce your risk of having seizures by following these steps:

  1. Take your medicine. On time, every day, exactly as prescribed.
  2. Keep a health diary. Include things like seizure activity, medication, test results, side effects, and questions for your doctor.
  3. Create and share a seizure response plan. Get your doctor’s input and share your plan with family, friends, coworkers, and teachers.
  4. Know your seizure triggers. For many people, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much alcohol, or stress can cause seizures.

For a sample seizure action plan or other printable tools to help manage epilepsy see the Resource Library.

Safety Tips

Your best safety advice comes from knowing yourself and your seizure activity. Here are some additional safety tips, especially if you have tonic-clonic seizures.

In the Bathroom

  • Hang the bathroom door so that it opens out, not in. Your family will be able to open the door even if you fall against it.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath.
  • Leave the door unlocked.
  • Install a rubber mat or non-skid strips on the tub or shower floor.
  • Let someone else know when you are going to shower.

In the Kitchen

  • Cook with a partner.
  • Use the microwave instead of the stove when home alone.
  • When using the stove, use the back burners.
  • Wear long, thick oven mitts to take food out of the oven.
  • Buy pre-sliced foods so you don’t need to use knives as often.
  • Use caution with hot foods and liquids.

In the Bedroom

  • Sleep in a bed that is low to the floor.
  • Consider a movement monitor so someone can be alerted if you have a seizure.
  • Avoid soft, fluffy pillows, or too many pillows or stuffed animals on the bed.

Working Outside the House

  • Use a lawn mower that stops when you let go of the handle.
  • Make sure power tools have safety guards and will stop running if you let go.
  • Wear protective eyewear, footwear, and gloves.

When Traveling

  • Do not drive if you have been having seizures.
  • Carry information about your condition, medications, and emergency contacts. Consider a medical alert bracelet.
  • When traveling by air, carry your medication in your carry-on, and take extra in case your return home is delayed.
  • Ask your doctor how to schedule your medicines in different time zones.

At Work

  • Think about risks specific to your workplace and see if anything can be changed to make it safer.
  • Talk to your employer about a seizure action plan and educate your coworkers.
  • Keep extra clothes at work in case you need to change after a seizure.

Prevent Injuries from Falls

  • Put padding on furniture with sharp edges
  • Install soft flooring like carpets with thick padding.
  • Put soft “outdoor carpeting” in hard surfaces outside.
  • Look for homes or apartments without steps if you have active seizures.

Call 911 if

  • A seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
  • A second seizure begins immediately after the first.
  • A seizure happens in water.
  • The person is injured.
  • The person is pregnant or has diabetes.
  • This is someone’s first seizure.

Driving and Epilepsy

Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website for driver services, forms and detailed information.

The issue of driving as it relates to epilepsy or seizure disorder can be an emotionally charged issue. For teenagers and young adults, obtaining a driver’s license has become an important rite of passage into adulthood. An individual’s ability to obtain a driver’s license has a direct impact upon their level of independence. It can limit a person’s employment opportunities and affects our everyday lives in countless ways.

Today, many people who have epilepsy or a seizure disorder are able to drive. If your seizures are controlled and you meet all of the non-medical requirements for obtaining a driver’s license, you should have no difficulty in Pennsylvania obtaining a learner’s permit or driver’s license.

The first step in making a determination about your readiness to apply for a driver’s license or to resume driving is to discuss the matter with your physician. Protecting your personal safety and the safety of everyone traveling our roads and highways is a paramount concern for the EAWCP. If your seizures are not medically controlled, you should not drive.

Epilepsy and seizure disorders are only dangerous when they are not under medical control. In Pennsylvania, you must be seizure-free for six months before you will be permitted to drive. Your physician will be required to complete a medical report stating that your seizures are controlled and send that report to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The Pennsylvania rules on epilepsy/seizure disorders and driving do have a number of exemptions to the requirement that you be seizure free for six months. Those exemptions include a person who experiences only an aura. Your physician can also recommend a waiver from the 6 month seizure-free requirement if:

  • You have a strictly nocturnal pattern of seizures or a pattern of seizures occurring immediately upon awakening has been established for at least 2 years immediately preceding your application.
  • You experience a specific prolonged aura accompanied by a sufficient warning and this pattern has been established over a period of at least 2 years immediately preceding your application or suspension.
  • Your seizures had previously been controlled and the subsequent seizure or seizures occurred as a result of a prescribed change or removal from medication while under the supervision of a licensed physician.
  • Your seizures had been previously controlled for 6 or more months, and the subsequent seizure occurred during or concurrent with a nonrecurring transient illness, toxic ingestion, metabolic imbalance or nonrecurring trauma.