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Myths and Facts

Myths and Facts

  A great deal has been learned about epilepsy in the past century, but many misperceptions still exist, including what epilepsy is and what to do during a seizure. Whenever you tell someone about epilepsy you will probably have to explain what it is and is not and what to do during a seizure. Here are some common myths to look out for:

Myth: People with epilepsy are mentally ill or retarded .

Fact: Although epilepsy is related to the brain, it does not indicate that a person is mentally ill or mentally retarded. Epilepsy is a physical condition and is not related to mental illness or intelligence.


Myth: Epilepsy is contagious .

Fact: Epilepsy is not contagious. It is a physical condition that cannot be passed from person to person.


Myth: During a seizure, people will swallow their tongue and suffocate .

Fact: It is physically impossible to swallow your tongue, yet many people will try to help a person having a seizure by forcing their mouth open and trying to hold their tongue. This is potentially dangerous both to the person helping (they may get bitten) and the person having the seizure (they may have their teeth damaged). However, a person should be rolled on their side during a convulsive seizure (like clonic-tonic seizures) to ensure that their airway is not blocked.


Myth: An ambulance should be called when someone has a seizure.

Fact: Most seizures do not require any medical attention and calling an ambulance is an unnecessary waste of money. However, there are four reasons to call an ambulance:

  1. This is the first time the person has had a seizure.
  2. The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
  3. There are multiple seizures in a row.
  4. The person is injured or asks for an ambulance.

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