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Celebrating Fourth of July?


Did you know that watching fireworks may be a seizure trigger? In fact, any bright light that is flashed repeatedly into a vulnerable person’s full field of vision may cause a seizure, especially in those with photosensitivity and epilepsy. The good news is that taking the following precautions can sharply reduce that risk:

1) Keep your distance: People with epilepsy (especially children) should sit far enough away from the fireworks so that the display takes up no more than half of the sky. According to Giuseppe Erba, Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at The Epilepsy Center, Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY and expert on photosensitivity, when a seizure stimulus is only a small fraction of a person’s whole field of vision, the risk of a seizure is virtually eliminated.

2) Take your medication: Not surprisingly, people with epilepsy must be extra certain to take anti-epilepsy medication on schedule the day before viewing fireworks, as well as on the day of the display. Even the most protective medications will not be effective if a dose is missed.

3) Cover one eye: According to Dr. Erba, covering one eye reduces the amount of visual stimulation and thus seizure risk. Should the vulnerable person notice any seizure warning signs, he or she should cover both eyes immediately.

Clinical photosensitivity is relatively rare, affecting only two percent of patients of all ages presenting with seizures. Nonetheless, certain populations are more likely to be photosensitive, including pediatric patients with epilepsy (10 percent), as well as individuals with certain types of severe epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome (>40 percent), Unverricht-Lundborg disease (90 percent), and other progressive myoclonic epilepsies. Following the above guidelines will help the person with epilepsy to participate in this annual celebration with one less seizure-related worry.

Information for this blog was adapted from the Epilepsy Foundation. Giuseppe Erba, MD, who is cited in this article, is a professor of neurology and pediatrics at The Epilepsy Center, Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. For further information on photosensitivity and seizures, see

June 30, 2016 | Categories: General

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