Summer is here and school is out! The warmest months of the year mean picnics with friends, barbecues in the garden and having fun outdoors.
Some people who have seizures notice there is a pattern between their epilepsy and hot weather. If you have heat seizures, this doesn’t mean you have to spend the next few months indoors. By taking some simple precautions, you can still enjoy the warm weather like anybody else.
Can heat cause seizures?
Scientists do not have definite evidence that heat alone causes seizures. Instead, it is believed that other factors related to warm weather are the reason you might have more seizures when it is hot. These include:
When the weather is warm it is easy to become dehydrated as you sweat out water to keep cool. Dehydration can cause changes in your brain and this may be a seizure trigger.
- Sweating and salt
In a similar way, when we sweat our bodies lose sodium (the scientific word for salt). However, your brain needs sodium to help balance electrical activity, and so sweating too much sodium out could also cause seizures.
- May make AEDs less effective
Once again, if you sweat too much when it is hot, your body may also get rid of your anti-epilepsy medication more quickly than usual. This could also make you more likely to have a seizure.
- Changes in temperature
Many scientific studies have shown that there is a link between changes in temperature and seizures. In summer, you may spend a lot of time in air-conditioned rooms, then go outdoors into 80-degree heat. That sudden change in temperature could cause a heat seizure.
How to reduce your risk of having a heat seizure
If you have noticed that you have more seizures when it is hot outdoors, try to plan your days so you can reduce the risk.
- Keep a bottle of water with you
Keeping hydrated when it is hot is sensible advice for anyone. When you know you are going to be in the heat, always bring along a big bottle of water to keep hydrated.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature
When it’s hot outside, it is natural to want to keep the air conditioning on at home. However, if you need to suddenly go outdoors, you could have a seizure caused by the temperature change.
If you can, avoid putting your AC too low. You can also keep the inside of your home cool by putting up curtains, keeping the windows open or buying a fan. This will help you keep cool but means that the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors isn’t so big.
- Stay in the shade when possible
Again, this is sensible advice for anyone. When you are at picnics or barbecues, try to sit in the shade of a tree or gazebo to avoid heat exposure. It’s also a good idea to wear a hat.
Enjoying the warm weather
For many people, summer means lazy days, barbecues with friends and relaxing outdoors. And while there is a link between epilepsy and hot weather, by taking some simple precautions you can enjoy those summer days without a worry.