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Managing epilepsy in a heatwave

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Nicola Swanborough

Managing epilepsy in a heatwave

Last year we carried out a survey* that showed that 62 per cent of people with uncontrolled seizures experience an increase in their seizure activity during unusually hot weather.

More than 1,000 people responded to our survey, including 969 people whose epilepsy does not respond to current treatments. A total of 598 of this group said that they experienced a change in their seizure activity during very hot weather. This included an increase in frequency, severity or a ‘breakthrough’ seizure, even when they considered their epilepsy to be generally well controlled.

In the current heatwave, it is important to make sure that you take sensible precautions to ensure that you stay cool, particularly if you know your epilepsy is sensitive to the heat. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Try to avoid going out in the sun at midday when it is hottest. If possible, limit outdoor activities to early morning or early evening when temperatures are likely to be cooler
  • Make sure you keep well hydrated. Your brain is 78 per cent water so its performance will quickly be affected by lack of water. Keep a supply of water with you wherever you go
  • Where possible, stay cool in an air-conditioned room or use a fan to keep air circulating
  • Wear cool, light-coloured clothing that won’t absorb the heat
  • Listen to your own body. If you are feeling weak, dizzy or over-heated, take a break and find somewhere shady to relax. Tell a friend or family member how you are feeling.
  • Keep your epilepsy medication in a cool place, out of direct sun and make sure you take as prescribed
  • Cooling off in the pool is always refreshing but remember to follow all the usual precautions – don’t swim alone; swim with a friend or family member; tell the lifeguard you have epilepsy; don’t swim in open water where there is no lifeguard; even a paddling pool can pose a danger if you have epilepsy – always cool off with a friend, never alone.

*The charity conducted its survey following the week of 21-27 June 2020, when temperatures soared above 30 degrees Celsius.