When you have a chronic illness, such as epilepsy, peanut allergies, or
diabetes, you need an ally at your place of work.
Who should that ally be, how does he need to handle himself, and what should
he do in case of an emergency? Here are some practical tips experts offer WebMD
that will help you balance your health with your career.
If you have epilepsy, avoiding possible triggers -- such as lack of sleep, flashing lights, video games, use of heroin or cocaine, and abrupt withdrawal from medications or alcohol -- may prevent or reduce seizures. People with diabetes may help prevent seizures triggered by low blood sugar levels by closely monitoring blood sugar.
"Start by talking to your doctor," says Susan Kerner, director of
the Employee Assistance Program for Southern NH Health System in Nashua, N.H.
"Your doctor can help you better understand and articulate what your
symptoms are, how severe they are, and exactly what you need to be prepared
Next, find out if the company you work for has a corporate or employee
"It's sometimes helpful to talk to an occupational health or corporate
health representative who can give you words of wisdom," says Kerner.
"They are experienced in areas such as helping employees deal with issues
like these in the workplace."
You should also ask yourself if your chronic illness will require certain
accommodations, like a different work schedule because of medications, or
frequent breaks. If that is the case, then a discussion with human resources is
"Talk to someone from human resources about your health needs at work,
especially if you need them to be aware of certain issues that might impact
your work schedule," says Kerner.
Then, it's time to talk to the people you spend eight or more hours a day
with, and help them better understand how they can help with your chronic
"You need to tell the people who work physically near you, as well as
your manager, so practically, if there is an emergency, they can handle the
situation," says Kerner.
So what, exactly, do they need to understand about your chronic illness in
case of an emergency?
Your Chronic Illness: What They Need to Know
"Be realistic about what they need to know," says Kerner. "Make
people aware while not creating excessive concern, and alleviate their fears
about what to do when something happens."
Bottom line -- help them understand what they need to do so they don't
"The things that I emphasize are a calm, demeanor, a semblance of order,
and the avoidance of panic," says Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH, chair of the
board of regents for the American College of Physicians. "This is
absolutely the most valuable thing to bring to the situation.
"It's also advanced planning," he tells WebMD. "It's not the
person's personality that allows [him or her] to be calm in a frightening
situation. It's a sense of mastery, preparedness, and doing what you need to do
when it matters."