Over recent weeks, people around the world have been hit by extreme weather. We’ve heard a lot about the impact of these record-breaking heat waves. It has led to wildfires, droughts, and even heat-related illnesses.
Although dangerous for anyone, extreme heat waves present more risks for people with epilepsy. One of the things that makes extreme weather so dangerous is a lack of preparation. So, with the hot weather expected to hang around through August, it’s best to start preparing for it now. Read on to see how the heat might trigger seizures along with tips on staying cool this summer.
The link between heat and seizures.
There is no direct evidence that heat alone affects epilepsy, but there are factors related to it that might trigger seizures. These include dehydration and sweating; written in further detail below.
During warm weather, it is easy to become dehydrated as you sweat out water to stay cool. This can lead to changes in your brain, which can be a seizure trigger for some.
To function smoothly, the body needs to be able to maintain a sufficient level of sodium in the brain. So the loss of sodium through sweat can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy.
Also, if you are sweating excessively, your body may process your anti-epilepsy medication faster than usual, potentially leading to a seizure.
If you think your epilepsy is sensitive to any of the factors mentioned above, here are 8 ways to manage the heat this summer.
- Avoid going out during the hottest part of the day. In the UK, the hottest part of the day is estimated to be between 11 am to 3 pm. You might find it beneficial to stay home during this time.
- Stick to the shade. While it’s best to avoid going out during a heatwave, we know that’s not always an option. Being in direct sunlight can make the air temperature feel a lot warmer. So if you do go out, try and stick to the shade wherever possible.
- Shut out the light. While at home, you can still work to avoid the sun. Close blinds and curtains on windows exposed to the sun. Note: be aware of photosensitive triggers, such as the sun creating patterns through the blinds.
- Stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle around with you so that you have access to water all day. This can also act as a visible reminder to keep up your water intake.
- Eat light meals. Eating leads to a slight increase in body temperature. So eating light meals and foods with high water content is a great way to stay cool (and contribute to your hydration!).
- Wear lighter clothes. Light-coloured clothes keep you cool by reflecting sunlight, rather than absorbing it. You should also opt for loose-fitting clothes; these allow more airflow to your skin.
- Take it easy! We know some things have to be done, but avoid doing excessive amounts of work or exercise in the heat. Working up a sweat, as mentioned earlier, can trigger a seizure. Listen to your body, and take breaks when you feel tired, faint or too hot.
- Get to know the risks. Knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the risks and impacts of hot weather, the better you’ll be able to handle it. Epilepsy Society, Epilepsy Foundation, Epilepsy Action and the Epsy Health blog all provide useful information on this subject.
If the heat is not extreme, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy yourself this summer. Warmer weather opens the door to many fun activities. You might plan to visit the beach or your local pool, go travelling with friends or just generally spend more time outside. With that in mind, take note of the following safety precautions.
With good preparation, swimming and water sports can be safer for people with epilepsy. It is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor or a nurse to help you decide if swimming is a safe activity for you. If you do decide to go swimming, stick to dedicated swim areas rather than open water. Always take a friend or a family member and make sure they know how to help you in the case of a seizure. Speak with a lifeguard about your epilepsy and let them know how you would like them to assist you. It might also be beneficial to swim at quieter times.
You should always plan ahead when it comes to travel and holidays, especially in the heat. If your journey is by road, ensure you have ways to keep cool in the car. If you are flying, tell the airline company about your epilepsy when you book. Ensure the cabin crew and the person seated next to you know about your seizures. If you struggle to rest on a plane, avoid long-haul flights and flight times that interrupt your sleep schedule.
Storing your Medication
Always check the guidelines that come with your medication as they might be affected by high temperatures. It would be a good idea to invest in a thermometer to help you find the best place to store your medication.
As the summer heat approaches, people with epilepsy need to take extra precautions to stay cool and safe. By following simple tips like staying hydrated, wearing loose and breathable clothing, and seeking shade when necessary, you can beat the heat while still enjoying the warmer weather. Remember to focus on your health and well-being this summer, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions. Stay cool, stay safe, and make the most of the season!