Cold Weather and Seizures – Neurological Center for Epilepsy and Seizures

Have you ever wondered if the weather can affect your attacks? The fact is that some people are more likely to have attacks in the winter. While the weather is partly to blame, other seasonal factors also have an impact.

To understand why winter can make epilepsy symptoms worse in some people, it’s important to understand why people have seizures. Excessive electrical discharges in the brain cause epileptic seizures. Your environment can affect whether or not you get these excessive discharges.

Neurologists are aware of several factors that can affect your chance of having a seizure. They contain:

  • fasting
  • tension
  • Bright flashes of light
  • Menstruation and hormone changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Some foods
  • Medicines
  • Temperature changes

Not everyone with epilepsy responds to triggers in the same way. For example, for people with reflex epilepsy, eating a certain food can immediately trigger a seizure. However, for most people with epilepsy, the relationship between food and epilepsy is more closely related to changes in blood sugar or to the food containing a stimulant such as caffeine.

Likewise, not everyone with epilepsy is triggered by sudden changes in temperature. For those who do, a sudden and drastic drop in temperature, such as what happens when a cold front moves into an area, can trigger epileptic seizures.

Part of the increase in attacks in winter may be due to factors other than temperature. Many people drink alcohol or eat or take drugs during holiday parties. The resulting chemical changes in the body can make seizures more likely.

Talk to your neurologist about how to manage the increased risk of seizures. Neurologists may be able to give you medications that can reduce or eliminate your risk of seizures. If you have not had success with medication in the past, keep seeking help. Newer medications may be more effective for you. There are also non-pharmaceutical interventions for those not helped by medication.

You also want to make sure those around you know how to react if someone has a seizure. Many people have outdated and incorrect information on how to support someone with a seizure. Some of that information is potentially very harmful. The best way to support someone with a seizure is:

  • Move them or remove harmful objects if they are in danger (move someone off the top of stairs, remove hard or sharp objects, etc.)
  • Keep people away
  • If possible, lay them on their side to keep their airways clear.
  • Time the attack and then give them that information.

do not:

  • Try to hold them or otherwise stop physical movement.
  • Put everything in their mouth.

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