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What Is International Purple Day?

Published on 25th March 2019

You may have noticed that social media has recently been full of purple ribbons and people talking about “Purple Day” on 26th March.  Perhaps you have been wondering what it’s all about?  Purple Day was created by teenager Megan Cassidy in 2008 to raise awareness of epilepsy.  Megan has epilepsy herself and wanted to get people talking about it to dispel the myths and let others know that they are not alone.  Since Megan created the first Purple Day in Canada, it has become a worldwide event and gathers pace each year.  This year the aim is to get people talking about epilepsy so we can stamp out the stigma attached to it and educate people on the reality of living with epilepsy.

So, let’s start by busting a few of those myths!

MYTH 1 Epilepsy Is A Disease:  Epilepsy is a neurological condition (this means it affects the brain) which causes seizures; it is not a disease.

MYTH 2 You Can Catch Epilepsy From Someone Who Suffers With It:  It is not contagious and, therefore, you cannot “catch” epilepsy from someone else.

MYTH 3 People With Epilepsy Cannot Work:  The majority of people with epilepsy live normal, active lives, hold down jobs and have families.

MYTH 4 You Convulse When You Have Epilepsy:  Seizures are caused by a disturbance of electrical activity within the brain.  There are over 40 different types of seizures and not all of them involve convulsions, loss of consciousness or shaking.

MYTH 5 Flashing Lights Cause Seizures:  Only around 3% of people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy.  Seizures can, in fact, be triggered by all manner of different things and this varies from person to person.  Common triggers include stress, alcohol and lack of sleep.

MYTH 6 Epilepsy Is Rare:  More than 500,000 people in the UK have epilepsy; that equates to around 1 in 100.  Around 87 people are diagnosed every day.  Anyone can develop epilepsy, it happens in all races, ages and social classes.

MYTH 7 During A Seizure You Should Restrain Them:  It can be quite frightening to see someone have a seizure and it is important to know what to do to avoid causing harm to the person:


What to do:

  • Stay calm and let the seizure take its course
  • Time the seizure, if it lasts more than 5 minutes call an ambulance.
  • Protect the person from injury and, if necessary, ease the person to the floor. 
  • Move hard or sharp objects out the way and place something soft under the head.
  • Loosen anything tight around the neck
  • DO NOT restrain the person
  • DO NOT put anything in the mouth.  They will not swallow their tongue
  • As the seizure subsides, gently roll them onto their side to allow any saliva and other fluids to drain away and keep the airways clear.
  • After the seizure has subsided, talk to the person reassuringly.  Stay with the person until they are fully conscious and re-orientated.  The person may need to rest or sleep.

Epilepsy is usually kept in check by anti-seizure medication and, sometimes, by surgery.  However, for some people neither of these methods is successful and their epilepsy remains uncontrolled.  In either case, living with the uncertainty of this condition is very stressful and often leads to depression and anxiety.  Relaxation therapies such as massage and reflexology, can help to relieve stress and some people report that this can make seizures less likely.  Epilepsy Action (a British epilepsy charity), cite a study which showed a number of people who received reflexology (along with their usual epilepsy medication) had fewer seizures than before.

Often, partly because of all the myths and stigma that still surround epilepsy, people are afraid to ask questions about it.  Perhaps from fear of offending somebody or appearing uninformed.  This year, why not wear purple on March 26th to show your support and, when somebody comments on your purpleness, you can start a conversation and raise awareness about epilepsy!


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