UCL News


UCL in the News: Many 'believe myths' on epilepsy

25 July 2007

Many people believe potentially harmful myths about epilepsy, a study from UCL suggests.

A third would put something in the mouth of a person having a seizure to stop them swallowing their tongue - but doing so could block their airways. …

The authors focused on four key myths surrounding seizures: the need to call an ambulance, the need to put something in their mouth so they do not swallow their tongue, and the incidence of foaming at the mouth and violence in seizures. …

Lead author Dr Sallie Baxendale [UCL Institute of Neurology] said it was "extremely worrying" that so many people were still trying to put things in people's mouths during a seizure.

She said: "They think the person is going to swallow their tongue, but you can't actually do that.

"People having a seizure can bite down very hard, so something in their mouth could damage their teeth and leave them with a huge dental bill." …

She added: "One problem is that seizures look extremely dramatic, but actually for most people it is something that happens occasionally and that they can recover from relatively quickly.

"The only thing to do is keep them safe and let the seizure run its course." …

The study authors suggest that the inaccurate depiction of epilepsy in films could help perpetuate these myths, and may contribute to negative stereotypes surrounding the disease.

BBC News