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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 Know continued...

Bottom line -- help them understand what they need to do so they don't panic.

"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."

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.

Epilepsy

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.

 

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