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Could your flooring choice trigger an epileptic seizure?

EPILEPSY is a brain condition where sudden and intense bursts of electrical energy in the brain lead to a disruption of how the brain works resulting in an epileptic seizure. Epilepsy is fairly common with an estimated 60,000 sufferers in the UK, however, what triggers a seizure and the type of seizure experienced varies greatly.

Seizures can range from simple partial/focal seizures where an individual may experience strange sensations or a change in taste and smell for example, to something more serious such as an atonic seizure or status epilepticus where a person may lose consciousness and fall to the floor.

Many things can trigger an epileptic seizure from a change in temperature, stress, and illness. But for those with photosensitive epilepsy (PSE), a person might experience seizures owing to flashing lights, moving patterns, and other bold patterns and lighting.

How does your flooring choice help those living with the condition?
First, let’s look at it from a safety point of view. Falling on a hard surface like tiles, stone or even vinyl or LVT can increase the risk of an injury. Research suggests that when falling on carpets, as opposed to hard surface floors, injuries and fractures are reduced.

Carpet should be considered for high-risk areas such as stairways, as seizures can happen at any time and sometimes without warning, and therefore carpet in such areas can reduce the severity of a fall.

Seizures also result in the twitching and jerking of the body, which if sustained on a floor for a prolonged period could result in friction burns. Therefore, it’s important to check the electrostatic properties of the selected finish to minimise the risk of such electrical charge.

For these reasons some consider synthetic fibres as less suitable, however danfloor’s Prism and Econyl yarns are inherently anti-static and prevent electric charges when in contact with the fibre.

Some epileptics will be aware of an impending seizure, therefore, it can be beneficial to design spaces that offer rest zones with the installation of carpet, this can be particularly helpful within schools. For those who have pre-seizure symptoms having a safe place to sit or lie within proximity can reduce the risk of them falling during a seizure and makes the environment a little more comfortable.

So, could your flooring choice trigger an epileptic seizure?
As mentioned previously for those that live with PSE lights and patterns can be triggering. Bright glaring lights and flashing lights can trigger seizures owing to an increased sensitivity to light. In addition, light reflections and shiny surfaces can also set off a seizure, therefore selecting a surface that reflects minimal light and doesn’t cause a glare can help to reduce this risk.

It’s also important to avoid heavily contrasting patterns like stripes or colours that contrast with a light reflectance value difference that is greater than eight points. This applies to colours used within a flooring pattern and between corresponding finishes, for example, the flooring in an individual’s bedroom and the ensuite finish. Any sudden colour change could be seen as a flicker and therefore trigger a seizure.

Danfloor’s carpet ranges have been assessed for their Light Reflectance Value and their LRVs are clearly shown on our website and literature. This allows you to design interior finishes with products that will not cause discomfort to those living with epilepsy and other neurological conditions.
Cath Helliker is brand marketing and communications manager, danfloor

Top tips for designing with epilepsy in mind


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