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Seizure Triggers

Hello all ~ my brother suffered a closed head injury when he was 12 after being hit by a car. He is now 36. He has been having seizures since his accident. I am looking for some feedback on triggers. I know that if he gets over~heated he will seize, if he has an infection/fever he will seize. I am wondering if anyone has experienced increased seizure activity with changes in barometric pressure?


This comes from a "PubMed" clinical study: "Surprisingly, in patients with known epilepsy, increased seizure frequency occurred with changes in barometric pressure, particularly over 5.5 mBar range per day."

"Neurological illness" states that heat or high humidity can lead to seizures.  That's probably because hot weather sometimes leads to dehydration where the electrolytes become unbalanced and cause all kinds of havoc.  (That's why sports players drink Gaterade!)

Here some other common seizure triggers:

Flickering or Flashing Light

If you have photosensitive epilepsy, certain types of flickering or flashing light may incite a seizure.  The trigger could be exposure to television screens due to the flicker or rolling images, computer monitors, certain video games or TV broadcasts containing rapid flashes, even alternating patterns of different colors, in addition to intense strobe lights.

And surprisingly, seizures may be triggered by natural light, such as sunlight, especially when shimmering off water, even sun flickering through trees or through the slats of Venetian blinds.


Stress can trigger hyperventilation which can provoke seizures, especially absence seizures.  It can increase cortisol, known as “the stress hormone” because cortisol is secreted in higher levels during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress.  And, as you may imagine, it’s responsible for several stress-related changes in the body which also may influence seizure activity.

Negative emotions related to stress, such as anger, worry or fright, may also cause seizures. This happens because the limbic system, the portion of the brain that regulates emotion, is one of the most common places for seizures to begin.  You’ll probably find that you have more seizures during or after periods of anxiety or stress.

Lack of Sleep

Inadequate or fragmented sleep can set off seizures in lots of people. In one study, the lowest risk for seizures was during REM sleep (when dreams occur). The highest risk was during light non-REM stages of sleep.


For many women, certain hormones seem to trigger seizures at particular times in their menstrual cycle. It can be during ovulation, menstruation, pregnancy or menopause.  This is known as “catamenial epilepsy.” If you’re going through menopause, you may find that the hormonal changes at this time make you more likely to have seizures, (although for some women, seizures will not be affected or become less frequent).

Food Allergies

Both food sensitivities and allergies can definitely trigger seizures.  Especially foods that are rich in glutamate and aspartame – two very excitatory amino acids.  Food allergies may also trigger seizures in children who also have migraine headaches, hyperactive behavior and abdominal pains.


High fevers in children can commonly incite a seizure.  Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever are all triggers. And vomiting may reduce the dosage level of previously ingested anti-seizure medication.  As for adults, they usually weather illness fine but it can reduce the seizure threshold, and make you more likely to have a seizure.

Prescription Drugs

Some prescription medications — especially penicillin, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs — can prevent your medication from working. It could be caused by the way your system responds to a certain a drug, a combination of drugs, reaction or withdrawal. Make sure all your doctors know everything you take.


Certain over-the-counter medications (Advil and Tylenol are fine but never take aspirin!) can make you more likely to have a seizure, if you have epilepsy or a history of seizures. For example, anti-depressants and antihistamines are possible seizure triggers.   Also certain supplements — like evening primrose oil — can also be a trigger.


There are two questions that have to be considered when the question of alcohol use and epilepsy comes up. One is the effect that alcohol could have on the medicines used to control seizures. Alcohol can be dangerous when mixed with sedative drugs and can cause coma, or even death. The other question is whether the alcohol itself will cause seizures.

Large amounts of alcohol are thought to raise the risk of seizures and may even cause them. When you drink alcohol, it may temporarily reduce seizures for a few hours, but then increases the chances of a seizure as the alcohol leaves your body.

Cigarette Smoking

Nicotine is both a stimulant and a depressant to the central nervous system. The nicotine in cigarettes acts on receptors for the excitatory neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain, which increases neuronal firing.

But if you want to STOP smoking, here’s a piece of scary information: some nicotine preparations used to help people stop smoking can have a side effect of convulsions. So, if you’re thinking of quitting, check out your smoking cessation program with your doc first.


Much like nicotine, caffeine stimulates the nervous system. Adrenaline is released and the liver begins to emit stored blood sugar. Insulin is then released, and blood sugar drops below normal—a common seizure trigger.  And caffeine can be a “stealth” drug, too.  It can be found as an ingredient in medications, including some antihistamines and decongestants.

Musicogenic Epilepsy

This is a form of reflexive epilepsy in which a seizure is triggered by music or specific frequencies. Sensitivity to music varies from person to person.  Some people are sensitive to a particular tone from a voice or instrument. Others are sensitive to a particular musical style or rhythm. Still others are sensitive to a range of noises.

Individual Triggers

A common trigger is too much heat, internal from extremely excessive exercise or external from an overheated house or apartment.  Other triggers include the smell of glue and the color yellow! Many people have their own specific triggers, while others don’t.  It’s a combination of possibilities: personal chemistry, biology and genetics.

I hope this helps...     Phylis Feiner Johnson

Phylis ~

     Thank you for your input! Very good information!

I have many times gone against the gain.  Everyone has a different body type.  You really have to find out what works for you.  I have had epilepsy for over 33 years and over those years I have learned a lot about epilepsy.  I have discovered things about epilepsy that you can't even find in books or on the internet.  Other triggers for epilepsy are regular sleep and low blood sugar.  I have done research on myself to find things out.  Learning about epilepsy is not an easy subject but i've been doing it on my own for decades.  People dont understand epilepsy because so many with the condition dont talk to others about it.  I used to be ashamed and embassed about it myself.  In the late 70's and 80's I saw tons of bigoty.  It was like being a Black person in the deep south during the 1940's, that is the best way I can think of how to explain it, you become toxic and slowly lose your friends.  Its because of their IGNORANCE, noone teaches the public about epilepsy so the stigma remains.   What do you think I do know ??  I teach people about the condition.  Most are strangers too.  If you think about it what are they going to do ?  The worst they can do is hate you, and if they do "so what" it is their problem.  If you speak to others about epilepsy you find out they are very receptive and interested in it.  The brain is not an easy subject, but you can learn it.  I teach people about epilepsy everyday.  The word about the condition has to get out,  I have only found one other person with epilepsy that does what I do.  But I will do it for many more years to co

take arll, 

       Cary Tice










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