Bruce Shiell, Wellbeing Worker at Epilepsy Scotland looks at ways to stay healthy at work.
It is important for all employees to take regular breaks, ensure that they eat regularly and work in a safe and comfortable environment regardless whether they have a long-term condition or not.
The effect of having a seizure at work will depend on the type of seizure and the person’s workplace.
The Health and Safety Executive requires that risks associated with seizures have been assessed in relation to each workplace.
There are some triggers that are common to most people with epilepsy. Being tired, not taking breaks, being dehydrated, hungry or stressed are among common seizure triggers.
It is important to get regular breaks at work. Sitting in front of a computer or machinery for a long period of time is tiring.
Also, it is known that tiredness can trigger seizures.
Current guidance from the Health and Safety Executive suggests that you take 5-10-minute breaks from your computer every 50-60 minutes.
It is important to eat regularly through the day and make sure you drink plenty of water.
This is because skipping meals can be a seizure trigger because blood sugar levels can drop and being dehydrated can be a common trigger for seizures.
Some people’s seizures can be triggered by getting too hot. Make sure your work environment is at a comfortable temperature.
Some people think that a person with epilepsy cannot use a computer. This is not the case. Modern LCD flat screens do not flicker. This is unlike the old-style cathode-ray tube monitors but these are no longer used by workplaces.
Computers can, however, still cause some issues if the content of the programme contains flashing or flickering lights, or repetitive or fast moving patterns.
Some people who do not have photosensitive epilepsy may still experience some discomfort, particularly when working for a long time without a break.
Ensure that your work area is well lit. Any broken or flickering lights should be fixed immediately in case the flickering falls within the range that can trigger photosensitive epilepsy.
Keeping people informed
It is your choice whether you disclose that you have epilepsy unless there is a health and safety risk if you had a seizure at work.
Examples are where you operate machinery or work at heights.
If you choose to inform your employer or colleagues about your epilepsy, it can be a good idea to let them know what happens when you have a seizure.
Information they might want to know includes how frequent your seizures are, what triggers them, what they look like, how long they last and how long you need to rest afterwards.
Many people work extra hours because of deadlines.
If you do work late, remember the most common triggers for seizures are:
- Being tired
- Skipping meals
- Getting dehydrated
- Feeling stressed
- Not taking medication on time
If you are working later than usual, it is important to make sure that you have thought about possible seizure triggers, so you stay as healthy as possible.
Not getting enough sleep
We all generally perform better after a good night’s sleep. Sleep is especially important if you have epilepsy.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be more likely to have a seizure. Some types of seizures, like myoclonic seizures (sudden jerks of your arms, head or whole body), are more likely when a person is tired or just waking up.
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) can also affect the quality of your sleep. If you find that being tired leads to more seizures, make sure you get plenty of rest and avoid too many late nights. If you have trouble sleeping, speak to your doctor.
This could be a side effect of the anti-epileptic medication you take.
Working night shifts
Some people who work night shifts have trouble sleeping during the day.
If you find that being tired is likely to trigger a seizure for you, avoid working night shifts if you can.
Under the Equality Act, your employer has to consider making “reasonable adjustments” if you have epilepsy.
Ask your employer if working during the day is an option. Allowing you to work during the day instead of nights could be a reasonable adjustment.
Our staying healthy at work factsheet provides more information, or if you would like to talk to someone, please call our helpline on 0808 800 2200.