Heat & Seizures

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Using caution in hot weather can help avert seizures.
Using caution in hot weather can help avert seizures. (Image: sweating image by sasha from Fotolia.com)

Seizures can be caused by the neurological disorder epilepsy, or they can be the result of physical trauma. People who have epilepsy often find that their seizures are triggered by various things, including temperature or barometric changes, certain lights and sounds, even times of day. Regardless of the cause, use caution in the heat to reduce the risk of seizures.

Heat Exhaustion ("Heat Stroke")

Heat exhaustion, commonly known as “heat stroke,” is a condition caused by the body’s inability to keep itself cool. The body stays cool by perspiring (sweating), as the perspiration evaporates. On days that are especially hot and humid, extra moisture in the air causes perspiration to evaporate more slowly, causing your body temperature to rise. If left untreated, heat stroke can cause symptoms in some people.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

The early symptoms of heat stroke are not terribly serious and should be considered a warning. Earliest symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, fatigue and weakness, headaches, muscle cramps and dizziness. As the condition worsens, the sufferer may experience not only seizures, but also high body temperature, the absence of sweating with very hot or flushed dry skin, a rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, odd behavior, confusion, hallucinations and disorientation. The patient may even become comatose.

Hot Weather and Epilepsy

There is no scientific evidence that heat itself causes seizures to occur in people suffering from epilepsy. Becoming severely overheated can cause seizures, but an average hot day is not in itself the culprit. It is mainly changes in weather that trigger epileptic seizures. For example, someone who keeps his house very cool in the summer may go out into the hot weather, and the change in temperature may trigger seizure activity. Summertime means thunderstorms, and the lightning produced during such storms can also be a trigger. Going from a dark room into the bright sunshine can cause seizures too.

Dehydration and Epilepsy

Make sure you have plenty of fluids in your system if you have epilepsy. Too much perspiration and not enough fluid intake can cause a drop in sodium and sugar levels (hypoglycemia), both of which have been known to cause seizures. Also, sweating or urinating too much may cause too much of your seizure medication to be expelled from your body, lowering both your therapeutic medication levels and your threshold for seizures.

Anti-Seizure Medication Side Effects

Certain anti-seizure medications, such as the drug Topamax, may cause side effects that require more fluid intake. For example, Topamax may cause decreased sweating and higher body temperature, which can prevent the body from cooling itself adequately.

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