Temperature-induced seizures

17th September 2018

There are many potential triggers that could cause an individual to have a seizure. Triggers are not generalised across the epilepsy populations, therefore, individuals will experience specific types of triggers. However, some triggers are more common than others. For example, stress and sleep deprivation are two of the more common triggers. Another trigger that’s experienced by many is heat.

How does heat lead to seizures?

Heat is a common a trigger in children. This is sometimes called or referred to as a febrile seizure (convulsion). This is a seizure that happens at the start of a fever and is believed to be linked to the increase in body temperature, rather than the fever itself. Most children who have febrile seizures are under age 5, it is less common after age of 5. In fact, only 1 in 100 children with febrile seizures are diagnosed with epilepsy.

There are also many people with epilepsy who report that heat is a trigger for them. This might simply be caused by a hot day or a sudden change in temperature, such as walking out of the cold outdoors into a warm building or car. Some people report that it’s more common when they become hot during a physical activity, which may mean that exhaustion also plays a part.

What causes temperature-induced seizures?

It’s currently unknown why heat and temperature is a potential seizure trigger, however, it’s thought to be due to a genetic mutation that alters the brain’s ability to regulate temperature. This means that as your body temperature rises (as it does during a fever), the brain can’t regulate and compensate for the unexpected change in temperature.

What can I do about it?

Like most triggers, it’s all about minimising the risk of a seizure occurring by reducing the likelihood of the trigger. Of course, you can’t change the weather, but you can attempt to stay cool during hot weather. If you experience temperature-induced seizures you might try:

  • Taking regular tepid showers (cool, not cold)
  • Stay in the shade wherever possible
  • Keep drinking plenty of fluids
  • Invest in air conditioning if you live somewhere that is commonly warm
  • Limit overexerting yourself during warmer weather

If it’s the sudden change in the temperature that seems to trigger your seizures, you may attempt to acclimate yourself. For example, in the car you might slowly increase the temperature on the heater to stop a sudden increase in body temperature.

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information on temperature-induced seizures and managing epilepsy more effectively, please call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk.