Single Seizure caused by altitude changes


I saw an old post from 2005 from someone who had a 10 yr old daughter that had a seizure at Denver airport. My daughter's boyfriend has now had his second seizure after traveling to Colarado to go snowboarding. The first time was about 5 years ago and it happened on the airplane. Now it has happened again but he was in the car on the way home this time after the flight. He has never had any symptoms except for these two trips to Colorado and has not been diagnosed with epilepsy.

I was wondering if the little girl had any more episodes or if this was the only time it happened for her also. The original post had some links for altitude induced seizures that were no longer working.

It appears that the medical community does not have anything to say about this.

Any info would be appreciated-


Re: Single Seizure caused by altitude changes

i have very active Epilepsy but no problems with altitude. When travelling in South America (above 14,000ft) there was no difference - maybe even less seizures. I investigated things before hand (including talking to altitude medicine specialists, they didn't expect a link). Like you, I couldn't find much information.

Could there be other factors in the trips to Colarado which might be seizure triggers eg disturbed sleep, excess alcohol? Could it be a coincidence?

Re: Single Seizure caused by altitude changes

I am not sure if it is a coincidence. The Dr's are saying that there something skiiers can get called "whitewash seizures" (no info online). They also said that he may have been having very small seizures all along and didn't notice. He has been very active his entire life (snowboarding, skateboarding, dirt bikes) and he could have hit his head at some point. Also- he has flown to and from Colorado several times without incident.

Thanks for the response-

Re: Single Seizure caused by altitude changes

Hey Ginger, how you doing?

I've just been diagnosed, and have some abnormalities in the right temporal lobe.

Can i ask for your advice?

I've lived in the mountains most my life (one summer I was at 9k and hiking up), i'm experienced in wilderness safety and nutrition. over the last few years i've been at sea level and when I have rapidly ascended to 8k or so i've felt what i attributed to oxygen deprivation and slowed down to prevent any sickness ... But perhaps there was something more to it.

Anyway, with the new diagnosis, how do i go about backpacking? right now i'm on four 50 mg. lyrica / day. obviously i would have to train hard to get to 14k, etc., but for now, i just need to figure out how to do just overnights or two-day trips. trip planning? precautions? extra gear/drugs? what do i tell my companions?



Re: Single Seizure caused by altitude changes

I just want to say that this is a new concern for me. 

I had my first seizure just over four years ago, and went through a phase where I had many for a couple of years before getting settled.  I was living in Michigan at the time. 

Three months ago I moved to Denver and have begun having nearly as many seizures as I did back when I wasn't on medication.  In addition, I am not drinking (my seizure began while attending college/drinking) nearly as much and am, in general, living a far healthier lifestyle.

I am thinking that it may have to do with the altitude.  I have heard of it happening before, and it makes sense to me.  I went from having maybe one or two seizures a month for over the past year (and maybe one every few months where I would "black-out") to having three or four seizures a week. 

 I am certain that some people with epilepsy are not affected at all by altitude, but this could be similar to how I am not at all bothered by bright, flashing lights and others are.

Let me know if you get anymore information!

Re: Single Seizure caused by altitude changes

Hi craig,  I understand your concern.  My teenage son has epilepsy.  We live in Calif., he traveled to Denver a couple of summers ago to go to the Outward Bound course for young people with epilepsy (great program by the way), anyway,  they took them up to Leadville and then on up backpacking.  My son subsequently suffered two seizures in one day which had never happened before.  They had to take him back down to base camp for  fear the altitude was making his seizures worse.  Also, one other person on that trip had a seizure when they hadn't had a seizure in over a year.   

Afterwards, I was talking to the NP at his nuro's office and come to find out she was from the Denver area and was aware about altitude being a trigger for neurological conditions.  In my opinion, there is definately something to it. 

Have you talked to your neuro about this being a possible trigger?  Are there epilepsy specialists in the area that you could go to?

Take care and good luck!


Re: Single Seizure caused by altitude changes

Thank you for the reply!

I was having a hard time with my doctor back in Michigan, and since it has not gotten any better (I have now been here in Colorado for 7 months) and I am back on an insurance program, I am going to find a doctor that I can go speak with about this. 

 I also went home for a week and found that my seizures did lower.  I still had more than I used to back in the mitten, but it wasn't every single day.

Your reply was helpful, I often hear that what I am saying is "goofy" but it honestly seems logical that having less oxygen, even a little bit less, would affect how my brain functions.  Not so much causing the seizures, but having an atmosphere (pun intended) where it is easier for them to be caused.

I will be looking for a post about this in a moment, but do let me know if you are aware of a website I can go to to find good doctors.

 Thanks again 



Seizures caused by altitude changes


Hi, my son is almost 11 years old and he has had a seizure disorder his entire life. He suffers from several different kinds of seizures. We live in the Denver area and have for his entire life, but I am originally from the midwest (Grand Rapids, Michigan). When we go back to visit we will be there for a week and I will not see one seizure from him, but here it is a constant, daily thing.

I have asked so many neurologists and doctors if there have been any studies done, etc. regarding this and none of them seem to think it is a problem. None of them will admit that altitude has an effect on neurological disorders. It is soooo frustrating. I am trying now to reach out and see what I can find out or see if we can get a study like this started. Honestly I don't understand why it has not already been addressed.

I am sorry you have to deal with the seizures. They are not fun and can be extremely scary.

Wish you well.

Re: Single Seizure caused by altitude changes

I went to camp in Buena Vista, CO.  When I went to camp, I had a seizure do to the fear of traveling on a bus, from California to Colorado.  Once I was there,  I had a great time.  This is in a high altitude.  It was a blast for me.

I have flown in and out of Denver many times.   One time a friend had altitude sickness.  She was sicker than a dog.  I took care of her.  She did not have seizures.

Once coming back to camp, I was just getting over stomach flu.  When I reached the airport in Denver.  I had a grand mal seizure but it was do to getting over the flu.  I apparently had a high fever.  The hospital wanted me to stay and be observed.  I just wanted to go home.

I have rock climbed and hiked in the collegiate range in the Rockies for 5 years. (Yale,Harvard and Columbia) While climbing in shale, I did not slow down and just wanted to get to the top of Mt. Elbert ( it is the second tallest mt in Colorado) for the 2nd time, I wanted to show my athletic ability at a very high altitude. I had a seizure. It wasn't comfortable, but the Rangers helped me down.  I had the easy way down.  There is less O2 at that high altitude.  I believe that was at 12,000 ft.

 I loved to ride horses in Colorado. We swam in Twin Lakes.  Traveled into Aspen.  It was a great time.  I met a lot of nice friends.  The food was great!  Actually my seizures lessened when I was in Colorado.  I was busy all the time!

I think it is an individual problem.  It may be relayed to other things a person is dealing w/ apnea, asthma, allergy.

Colorado is a beautiful state and wonderful state!