On March 26th every year, people across the world wear purple and host events in support of epilepsy awareness. Here at Playworld, we wanted to let you know more about epilepsy and how we address the needs of people with epilepsy on the playground.
What is Epilepsy?
According to the CDC, epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes seizures. These seizures are not caused by a temporary underlying medical condition such as a high fever.
Epilepsy can affect people in very different ways, because there are many causes and kinds of seizures. Some people may have multiple types of seizures or other medical conditions in addition to epilepsy. These factors play a major role in determining the severity of the person’s condition and the impact it has on his or her life.
The way a seizure looks depends on the type of seizure a person is experiencing. Some can look like staring spells, while others cause a person to collapse, shake, and become unaware of what’s going on around them. Visit Sam, I am’s Blog for what a seizure feels like for one person.
According to the latest estimates, about 0.6% of children aged 0-17 years have active epilepsy. Think of a school with 1,000 students—this means about 6 of them could have epilepsy.
Exercising and Playing
There is no problem with people with epilepsy exercising and playing. Just like for everyone else, it can have many benefits.
However, there are some exercise-related epilepsy triggers:
- extreme fatigue
- lack of sleep
- dehydration (and electrolyte loss)
- hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
- hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).
Here are some suggestions to help people avoid these triggers:
- Make sure you take your medication as prescribed.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.
- Eat well before exercise and take a light snack or fruit if you need something immediately beforehand.
- Don’t push yourself to the point of physical exhaustion.
- If you’re feeling very hot and tired, slow down or stop.
- Make sure you have at least two rest days every week.
- Make sure your diet is nutritionally adequate.
- Get plenty of rest and good quality sleep.
When designing an inclusive playground, we encourage our customers to include shade and water fountains. These are two specific ways to help people remain seizure-free while playing.
We also suggest that an accessible swing seat be added to the swings. Parents we have spoken to have reported they feel much more comfortable knowing that if their child seizes while swinging, they’ll be supported with the harness.
Seizure First Aid
If you see someone at the playground having a seizure, here’s what to do to help.
These are general steps to help someone who’s having any type seizure:
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends and he or she is fully awake. After it ends, help the person sit in a safe place. Once they are alert and able to communicate, tell them what happened in very simple terms.
- Comfort the person and speak calmly.
- Check to see if the person is wearing a medical bracelet or other emergency information.
- Keep yourself and other people calm.
- Offer to call a taxi or another person to make sure the person gets home safely.
Knowing what NOT to do is important for keeping a person safe during or after a seizure.
Never do any of the following things:
- Hold the person down or try to stop his or her movements.
- Put anything in the person’s mouth. This can injure teeth or the jaw. A person having a seizure cannot swallow his or her tongue.
- Try to give mouth-to-mouth breaths (like CPR). People usually start breathing again on their own after a seizure.
- Offer the person water or food until he or she is fully alert.
When most people think of a seizure, they think of a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, also called a grand mal seizure. In this type of seizure, the person may cry out, fall, shake, or jerk, and become unaware of what’s going on around them.
Here’s what you can do to help someone having this type of seizure:
- Ease the person to the floor.
- Turn the person gently onto one side. This will help the person breathe.
- Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp. This can prevent injury.
- Put something soft and flat, like a folded jacket, under his or her head.
- Remove eyeglasses.
- Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make it hard to breathe.
- Time the seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
Now that you know a little bit more about epilepsy, dress your family up in purple and head to the playground. Take a photograph of yourself and post it on your Facebook feed with the message, I’m wearing PURPLE to support EPILEPSY AWARENESS. Help spread the word.
Visit http://www.purpleday.org to learn more.