Epilepsy Talk

Heat Is Not Our Friend… | July 3, 2020

And it can trigger some pretty awful consequences.

Like the time I was gardening at high noon. (What was I thinking about?) I fell backwards, hitting my head on the walkway. And I couldn’t ask for help because I was out cold. Baking in the sun.

And I’m sure you have your own stories. About passing out, puking or just feeling like you’re as dizzy as if you were on a roller coaster ride.

An epileptologist explained that heat can trigger a seizure for some people because it’s firing up the neurons in the brain which can cause a seizure.

Some examples:

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 different symptoms.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

The early symptoms of heat stroke are not terribly serious but should be considered a warning.

Earliest symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, fatigue and weakness, headaches, muscle cramps and dizziness.

As the condition worsens, you 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.

And you could 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’s 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 mean 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 your body from cooling itself adequately.

Normally, the process of sweating and evaporation of sweat facilitates body cooling.

In extreme temperatures in excess of 90° F (32.2° C), the amount of heat produced, exceeds the cooling effect of sweat evaporation.

Likewise, if the humidity reaches 100%, evaporation of sweat is no longer possible, and your body loses its ability to dissipate heat.

Eventually, your body’s temperature rises, leading to severe dehydration, swelling of brain tissue, low blood pressure, organ damage, and possibly death.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have Heat Stroke?

Heat stroke traditionally is divided into three classic varieties:

Exertional heat stroke typically occurs in younger athletic individuals who exercise vigorously in the heat until the body’s normal thermoregulatory mechanisms are overwhelmed.

Classic heat stroke more commonly occurs in older individuals or in those with underlying illnesses who are exposed to extreme environmental temperatures and/or humidity.

Another less common type of heat stroke is sunstroke (heat stroke caused by direct exposure to the sun).

What Does the “Heat Index” Mean?

The heat index tells you how hot it feels outside in the shade.

It’s not the same as the outside temperature.

The heat index is a measurement of how hot it feels when relative humidity is combined with the effects of the air temperature.

When you’re standing in full sunshine, the heat index value is even higher.

A heat index of 90°F or higher is dangerous.

How Can I Prevent Heat Illness?

When the heat index is high, stay indoors in air-conditioned areas when possible.

If you must go outside, take the following precautions:

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat or using an umbrella.

Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more.

Schedule vigorous outdoor activities for cooler times of the day — before 10:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m.

During an outdoor activity, take frequent breaks.

Drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

If you have clear, pale urine, you are probably drinking enough fluids. Dark-colored urine is an indication that you’re dehydrated.

Having heat exhaustion or heat stroke makes you more sensitive to hot conditions for about a week afterwards.

Your doctor can tell you when it is safe to return to your normal activities.

Heat-Related Illnesses and First Aid

Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death! Call 911 immediately.

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating.

Signs include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating.

Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating.

Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps.

Tired muscles — those used for sport and outside work — are usually the ones most affected by cramps.

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin.

Bottom line: Try to stay out of the heat. Or if you must, take the proper precautions.

Your body will thank you.

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  1. Great article !
    My body doesn’t sweat so I can’t cool down when my core gets hot then my head gets hot and it can flip me into seizures. Heat is definitely not my friend !!

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Bonnie — July 3, 2020 @ 12:18 PM

  2. I sweat enough for two of us. But unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to lower my body temperature. Even though I’m usually at 95.5 degrees. (Theoretically, I’m cold-blooded!)

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 12:22 PM

  3. Almost sounds like “hyponatremia”. I was told that is one one the long term effects of tegretol. That and menopause IS NOT EAST EITHER!! When it’s REALLY HOT!! However I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH THAT THUNDER AND LIGHTNING STORMS!!!!!!! I have to make a room in my basement to which I go to DURING A THUNDERSTORM!! My husband who was an electrician was the one who put the pieces together for me. It’s the electrical surge from the lightening that REALLY BOTHERS ME AND TRIGGERS MY SEIZURES!!!!!!! For that reason (a tornadoes) we made a room downstairs with a bed and the necessities of life to where I go when it’s storming!!!!!!! HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER!! Thank you Phylis!! Please be well and have a VERY GOOD SAFE BLESSED DAY TODAY AND PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF 😊🦅❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — July 3, 2020 @ 12:37 PM

  4. The room downstairs is brilliant. A refuge from all your triggers.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 12:40 PM

  5. Everything you’ve written Phylis is spot on. Your information is fabulous. I am a jogger and unfortunately It took me 15 years to learn that, for me, I don’t jog in the summer between mid-morning and after the sun sets. Each seizure I had requiring EMT, was mainly to assist with face injuries when losing consciousness and hitting the concrete during such jogs. Good tip to others: one event, jogging over a small bridge (11:00 am. +/-) with beautiful ocean breezes and aqua water below, doesn’t help. Seizure did happen. Bottom line: stay OUT of hot, humid weather. Have not had such seizures like I described above, since learning the hard way.

    R. Anthony

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Roy Anthony — July 3, 2020 @ 1:49 PM

    • Your jogging info is a great tip. I used to walk at 8 AM. But the afternoon gardening was my downfall. (Literally and figuratively.)

      Gardening in the afternoon was just plain stupid. You would have thought I would have learned after my first concussion!


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 1:54 PM

  6. I disagree, heat is my friend. Where i live we get 115 deg temps at times and i love it. The problem i think is when people get used to air conditioned places then go into the heat. Which in itself is the real problem that we are within 4 walls and not outside enjoying the day. That’s like jumping into a freezing cold lake. Or like stopping ur medicine rather than tapering off. Or like going into the sun for like 4 hrs when you haven’t been accustom to the sun on ur skin, whereby u get sun burnt. If u want a good tan, u taper that as well, by being in the sun for a short time and then increasing the time u r in it. Sun tan lotion is a myth, created by a billion dollar industry, that wants money. (think pacific islanders) Remember the sun is ur friend and supplies much needed vitamin d, in a way that man made vitamin can’t. But if one doesn’t know how to respect the sun, it can be an enemy. Before retiring, like most, working 40 hr weeks indoors i was as white as a ghost and when i’d go into the sun like on a Sat, i would get burnt big time. If u do get burnt, the best thing to do is to cool it off with water and do not put soap or any chemicals on it and don’t rub with a towel, pat it down. Burnt is when the skin peals afterwards, that is not good. I can be in the sun for hours, sweat profusely and still not get burnt, but i start my tanning in the spring and by summertime i’m nicely tanned.

    But for me i have more seizures during colder periods rather than hotter ones. When i trained my seizures to happen in the early mornings, that is the coldest part of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Zolt — July 3, 2020 @ 2:58 PM

    • All great advice, Zolt. I know that sudden immersion from hot to cold or vice versa, can trigger a seizure. So I guess this is the same concept.

      And I hadn’t taken into account the air conditioning factor, which really “spoils” us for the cold.



      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 3:18 PM

  7. Heat does not seem to bother me anymore, as years ago up t age 30-35 I always seem to have had more seizures & seizure activity that didn’t turn into a GRAND MAL seizure. Now at 60, I look back & see now that COLD TEMPS are my enemy today or maybe it’s just the lack of the SUN ENERGY which all the time from MARCH to OCT has more SEROTONIN from natural light from more daylight hours. But maybe that has nothing to do with it as my brain may not have any neurons left to it, after over 59 & 1/2 years of seizures, minus the almost 2 years seizure free from DEC 2010 to NOV 2012, before the worse seizure happened to me in my life. So for anyone & everyone who has MORE seizures, in different times of the year, Can that be from a lack of serotonin somehow in those R months, and why warm & hot days in those NO R months, are good for some of us ? But if you know that MSG & other excitotoxins WILL make seizures happen, it does not matter what month you eat or drink or take any drug that have MSG in it as seizure is 100% sure that it will happen. Somebody needs to connect these dots to how EXCITOTOXINS, Lack of SEROTONIN, from no sun light or more darkness, plus HOW does AED’s become effective or NOT based on how brain chemistry reacts to heat & other things related to brain chemistry. I just thought of this just reading the topic of heat, plus a friend I know says she has MORE SEIZURES in the no R months, when cooler than normal to COLD temps are here, she too has more seizures. As I said my 1st 35 years of life I could NOT handle the heat as I beg to have COLD temps 365 days a year. Today it can stay warm to hot 365 days a year as I dread the R months starting in 59 more days, not saying a seizure can happen before Septembe’R’.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James D — July 3, 2020 @ 3:03 PM

    • I think the serotonin factor is a good one, James D. Thanks for bringing it up. I also think that AEDs can affect how you react to the sun.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 3:23 PM

  8. This is a great hat I bought on Amazon which doubles as a Covid face covering. It really keeps the part that matters (the old noggin) cooler in the summer heat.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by paleobird — July 3, 2020 @ 3:04 PM

    • Neat. This really has you “covered”!


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 3:24 PM

      • For me, I feel that excessive sunlight right in the eyes is a trigger too. Hard to tell how much is the heat and how much is the light. (?) This hat has a nice wide brim that helps give the eyes some shade. I get migraines if I am out in the sun and squinting too long (e.g. forgot to bring sunglasses).
        Migraines for me are like a warning sign that I am doing something wrong which could lead to a seizure.

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by paleobird — July 3, 2020 @ 7:05 PM

      • Bright lights and migraines are a beast unto themselves.

        You might find this article interesting:

        Epilepsy & Migraines — Kissing Cousins https://epilepsytalk.com/2019/03/18/epilepsy-migraines-kissing-cousins/

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 9:58 PM

  9. I had to give up a part of my career. I used to be an umpire and referee until it was costing too much money. I would get overheated, go into a seizure and next thing I know I’m looking at paramedics because a fan called 911. The brain isn’t letting me say “No” when they ask if I’ll let them take me to the hospital so I’m in the back of an ambulance when I can finally start talking again.

    I clearly don’t miss those days.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ed Lugge — July 3, 2020 @ 3:31 PM

  10. Thanks for a very interesting article I’ve never connected the effects of the weather to my seizures nor thought about before.
    All these time, I’ve never associated my seizures to the weather & in this case to hot temperature.
    While the article clearly indicates that heat is certainly potential cause for many health risks & medical hardships, considering the seasonal changes it made me wonder that if my seizures strike more often in cold winter or hot summer?
    Having reliable consensus would certainly made me able to avoid the potential risks to my seizures in the winter & summer.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — July 3, 2020 @ 4:32 PM

  11. Although it differs from person, the consensuses seems to be that seizures strike more often in the hot weather rather than cold weather.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 3, 2020 @ 4:52 PM

  12. That’s really odd because I LOVED the outdoors and STILL DO!! It’s kind of funny because I’m almost like a little child that has to be constantly reminded to drink something and to eat!!!!! I loved summer sports and even used to try and tough out thunder and lightning storms!! I never used to think of this until I got married and my husband put all the pieces together!!!!! Of course me being me I AM STILL THE SAME WAY AND STILL NEED TO BE REMINDED!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — July 4, 2020 @ 12:00 AM

    • I hate cold weather & don’t ever plan to live anywhere near cold temperatures.
      But now knowing that hot temperatures can be potential trigger to my seizures, I got to be more careful in dealing with hot weather than I ever had been before.
      As general wisdom have it, prevention is better than cure.
      Therefore, it helps to know that managing the temperature of your environment & body is one of the many steps one can take to prevent from having more seizures, besides taking more medications.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — July 4, 2020 @ 4:09 AM

      • Yes your right Gerrie. The sad part is if I don’t get certain things done outside nothing will ever get done!! But I do agree. However when I do work outside I time it and drink water and Gatorade. I used to like swimming but I’m not feeling very safe with that one either now a days. Lol 😂 but I do have to admit FOR THE FIRST TIME I actually thought it may not be such a bad idea to get a swimming pool!! 😅😅

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — July 5, 2020 @ 1:27 PM

      • GOSH IT IS TOUGH NOT TO WANT TO GO OUT AND BE BUSY THOUGH!!!!!!! However I did go out lastweek and I swear it WIPED ME OUT EVEN TO NOW!!!!! Lol good thing you don’t have a cell phone or messanger or you would see for yourself!! Lmao 😂

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — August 10, 2020 @ 11:28 PM

  13. I sincerely think that AEDs can affect the way you react to either hot or cold temperatures.

    And yes, I agree, prevention is the key, before you spiral into a seizure. As Zolt said, acclimating yourself slowly to the temperature and weather conditions can go a long way towards preventing a seizure.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 4, 2020 @ 10:04 AM

  14. Umbrellas made just to keep the sun off are called parasols. While some are only accessories, you can find serious sun umbrellas with ratings similar to sunscreen ratings.

    Another strategy for keeping you brain cool: an ice pack on your neck over the ascending carotid artery, which I believe is the right side.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — July 9, 2020 @ 5:20 PM

  15. I used to have a u-shaped foam pack that you could fill with ice and wrap around your shoulders — ostensibly cooling your neck in the process.

    It was wonderful. Especially after exercising.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 9, 2020 @ 5:34 PM

  16. GABA prevents most seizures except heat induced ones. I’m looking into now how to get the body to regulate heat better to prevent heat seizures, but if you guys buy GABA from the vitamin store this is the ultimate antidote for the excitatory neurons, so it calms your brain all the way down, without side effects. Also don’t eat food with nitrates in them (deli meat, canned meat, bacon) it builds up in the brain after a few meals, stays there then causes a seizure.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Birdie — September 9, 2021 @ 6:42 PM

    • Thanks for the GABA tip. Much appreciated)


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 9, 2021 @ 8:33 PM

    • GABA acts as a muscle relaxant. Your heart is a muscle. Too much GABA and there could be unintended consequences. Think about what you’re doing, and discuss with a knowledgeable person.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — September 10, 2021 @ 7:08 AM

  17. Thank you Phylis for this helpful information !

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Bonnie Sutherland — June 12, 2022 @ 11:10 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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