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20% of people would not employ someone with epilepsy - survey

Many common misconceptions about epilepsy and its treatment still exist in Ireland. Here’s what you need to know.

Sisters Hannah and Emma Boughton from Rush, Co Dublin, who both have epilepsy.
Sisters Hannah and Emma Boughton from Rush, Co Dublin, who both have epilepsy.

ONE IN FIVE people would not employ someone with epilepsy, the results of a survey to coincide with European Epilepsy Day have shown.

The survey of over 1,000 adults noted this despite the fact that 45 per cent of people said that they knew someone with the neurological condition.

More worrying, however, was the finding that half of respondents believed a stigma remained in relation to the condition.

The deputy CEO of Epilepsy Ireland, Peter Murphy, responded to the findings, saying that “public awareness and understanding of the condition remains poor”, with “negative attitudes” making life more difficult for people with the condition.

He added:

Epilepsy is not contagious and people with epilepsy can work successfully, have a family, drive, play sports and make the same positive contribution to society as we all do.

Key findings

Other key findings from the survey were as follows:

  • While 38 per cent of people had witnessed someone having a seizure, only 43 per cent said they knew what to do.
  • 18 per cent of people believed that trying to restrain a person’s movement would help stop the seizure. This should only be done if the person is in a dangerous place like a road or beside a fire, however (see ‘The correct response’ below for more).
  • More than half of people said that they would place something in the person’s mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue. This should not be done.
  • 59 per cent of people thought that an ambulance should be called for all seizures. An ambulance should only be called if it’s the person’s first seizure, if the seizure lasts for more than five minutes, if one seizure follows another without the person regaining awareness between the seizures, if the person is injured during the seizure or if you believe the person needs urgent medical attention.
  • One in 10 people said that they would not stay or would be unsure about staying with a person until the seizure was over. The correct action is, in fact, to always stay with the person.

Responding to the responses outlined above, Sinead Murphy, who is a community epilepsy nurse specialist at Epilepsy Ireland said:

You cannot stop someone having a seizure but we all have a duty to know what to do when you witness someone you know or not, having a seizure. These research findings show a lack of understanding on how to assist someone and in some cases this lack of understanding could put the person having the seizure in danger.

The correct response

Most seizures will only last from a few seconds to a few minutes. It is important to remember that nothing can be done to stop a seizure.

Tonic-clonic seizures – seizures which involve a loss of consciousness, muscle stiffening, and the person falling to the ground followed by jerking movements – should be responded to as follows:

  • Note the time the seizure started. If the seizure continues for longer than five minutes, call an ambulance.
  • Protect the person from injury and remove any harmful objects that may be nearby.
  • Cushion the person’s head.
  • Gently place the person in the recovery position when the seizure has finished.
  • Stay with them until recovery is complete (5-20 minutes).
  • If the person should suffer any injury as a result of the seizure, normal first aid measures should be implemented.

Those who are interested in getting involved in European Epilepsy Day 2013 can find out more information by clicking here.

Read: New gene could potentially prevent epileptic seizures >

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About the author:

Paul Hyland

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