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How to Handle a Chronic Illness at Work

Whether it's epilepsy or peanut allergies here are some tips on who to tell, what your employer needs to know, and what people should do in case of an emergency.

Your Chronic Illness: What They Need to Do

For chronic illnesses such as epilepsy, diabetes, and severe food allergies, such as peanut allergies, there are specific dos and don'ts. Make sure your co-workers understand what these rules are, so they are fully prepared when it matters most.


What should someone do if you have a seizure? Here's a list of what to do and what not to do. Print out the following and share it with friends and family:


  • Loosen clothing around the person's neck.
  • Do not try to hold the person down or restrain her; this can result in injury.
  • Do not insert any objects in the person's mouth; this can also cause injury.
  • Reassure bystanders who may be panicking and ask them to give the person room.
  • Remove sharp objects (glasses, furniture, and other objects) from around the person to prevent injury.
  • After the seizure, it is helpful to lay the person on his or her side to maintain an open airway and prevent the person from inhaling any secretions.
  • After many seizures, there may be confusion for a period of time and the person should not be left alone.
  • In many cases, especially if the person is known to have epilepsy, it is not necessary to call an ambulance. If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, or if another seizure begins soon after the first, or if the person cannot be awakened after the movements have stopped, someone should call an ambulance. If you are concerned that something else may be wrong or the person has heart disease or diabetes you should contact a doctor immediately.



Help your colleagues recognize if you're having an attack of low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. Immediate treatment is needed and you may not be able to act quickly enough on your own.

Share this list of symptoms of low blood sugar to help people know what to watch for:


  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Irritability/Anxiety
  • Pale skin
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Poor coordination
  • Passing out


Then be sure your colleagues know how to act quickly in case of hypoglycemia:


  • If you suffer from frequent episodes of severe hypoglycemia a glucagon emergency kit should be prescribed by you doctor. This would be used in case your reaction is to the degree that you cannot help yourself through the reaction. Here another person can give you an injection in your muscles of the glucagon solution that will help bring your sugars up.

    Give your friends a few ideas of things they can get for you to help bring your blood sugar up. Also let them know not to try any of these if you have passed out from low blood sugar. They should call 911 immediately in that case.
  • Two or three glucose tablets (available at pharmacy)
  • One tube of glucose gel (available at pharmacy)
  • Chew four to six pieces of hard candy (not sugar-free)
  • 1/2 cup fruit juice
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup soft drink (not sugar-free)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (placed under your tongue for rapid absorption into the bloodstream)
  • 1 tablespoon table sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup


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