If you - or someone you care for - have seizures that make you fall over, then head injuries are a serious concern. They are the most common type of injury among people with seizures that make them fall, affecting 36% every year (followed by dental damage and broken bones which affect 5% each). To reduce the risks, you might be thinking of getting a seizure helmet.
So how do seizure helmets help, and do you need one? Let’s learn more about helmets for seizures.
What is a seizure helmet?
A seizure helmet is a special kind of protective headgear that is designed to reduce the risk or severity of head injuries for people with epilepsy. They’re designed for people whose seizures make them fall over. This includes tonic clonic seizures and atonic seizures (‘drop attacks’) among other types.
Seizure helmets are specially designed medical equipment. They’re usually made of some type of foam, and are held in place using a chin strap. To reduce overheating, they will normally have ventilation holes, and some even have room for cool packs to use on hot days.
They come with certain features depending on if you usually fall forwards or backwards:
- Features for people who fall forwards: Chin guard and extra cushioning on the forehead area
- Features for people who fall backwards: Extra cushioning on the sides and back of the neck
There are various websites and health outlets where you can buy seizure helmets for adults and children. It should be possible to adjust them to your size to get the right fit.
Many companies that produce helmets for seizures allow you to customize the design by choosing different colors, designs and patterns. You might also be able to purchase extra attachments for added safety.
Seizure helmets vs general safety helmets
Some people might think about using a sports safety helmet to protect from seizure falls. For example, boxing, cycling, baseball or even football helmets provide protection. This isn’t generally recommended - these helmets may not offer protection in the right areas, they could be difficult to remove in an emergency, and they aren’t always very suitable for wearing long term.
Pros and cons of helmets for seizures
Before investing in a seizure helmet, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons:
Pros of seizure helmets
- May protect you from head injuries, damaged teeth, cuts and bruises
- Gives you peace of mind
- Lightweight, breathable and designed for the job
Cons of seizure helmets
- May be stigmatized - can mark the wearer out as ‘different’
- Not comfortable to wear all day, especially during warm weather
- Not definitely effective (see below)
Lifestyle: 10 considerations for living with epilepsy
Do seizure helmets actually work?
You might be surprised to learn that there isn’t a huge amount of evidence seizure helmets really work. One ‘meta analysis’ (a study of other studies) found that the evidence of their effectiveness was limited. Indeed, one piece of research into head injuries among people with epilepsy found that helmet-wearers had just as many injuries as people who went without.
Deciding if you need a seizure helmet
If you’re thinking about buying a seizure helmet, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor first. They can talk you through your options in more detail, and they may recommend a specific brand for your situation.