Fact: More than 2.5 million Americans have epilepsy.
Myth: Epilepsy is contagious.
Fact: Epilepsy is not contagious.
Myth: You should put an object, such as a spoon, in the mouth of a person having a seizure to keep them from swallowing their tongue.
Fact: Nothing should be placed in the person’s mouth. While it is not physically possible to swallow one’s tongue, if the tongue is relaxed, it could block the breathing passage. Therefore, the person should be turned on his side so the tongue falls away and to the side.
Myth: Epilepsy is a psychological condition.
Fact: Epilepsy is a medical condition. Seizures are the result of an excessive and disorderly discharge of electrical energy in the brain.
Myth: You have to be born with epilepsy.
Fact: Epilepsy often first appears in children and young adults, although anyone can develop epilepsy at any time.
Myth: You can’t prevent epilepsy.
Fact: While no specific cause can be pinpointed in a majority of epilepsy cases, some causes, such as severe head injuries experienced in falling from a bicycle or sustained in an automobile accident, have been identified. This is why helmet safety is so important for children as a preventive measure.
Myth: Epilepsy can be cured.
Fact: There is no known cure for epilepsy. However, modern treatment methods can achieve full control of seizures in a majority of cases.
Myth: Epilepsy is a lifelong disorder.
Fact: Epilepsy is not necessarily a lifelong disorder. Many persons with epilepsy will not have seizures or require medication all of their lives.
Myth: Persons with epilepsy are "epileptics."
Fact: Persons with epilepsy are individuals who experience chronic, recurrent seizures and prefer being described as "persons with epilepsy."
Myth: Persons with epilepsy have "fits."
Fact: Persons with epilepsy have recurrent seizures, caused by a sudden and unusual discharge of electrical energy in the brain. The word "fits" is an outdated term for seizures.
Myth: Epilepsy is a sign of low intelligence.
Fact: Epilepsy is a physical condition, not a mental illness or handicap.
Myth: A person having a seizure should be held down.
Fact: Don’t try to restrain the person; this might cause injury. Instead, move anything hard or sharp out of the way, and place something soft under the person’s head.
Myth: Always call an ambulance when a person has a seizure.
Fact: Unless the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, or is followed by a series of seizures, it is seldom necessary to call an ambulance.
Myth: You can make a person "snap out" of a seizure.
Fact: There is really nothing you can do to end a seizure. The best thing is to be supportive and reassuring once the person regains consciousness.