Possible Seizure Triggers
By Steven Wolf, MD and Patty McGoldrick, NP

For someone with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), there is often a link between certain events or experiences and his or her seizures. These events or experiences are known as triggers. Knowing and avoiding these triggers may help you reduce the frequency of your child’s seizures.1

Poor sleep habits

As your child gets older, he or she is likely to go to bed later and will likely need to get up earlier for school or other programs he or she is involved in. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is a trigger for seizures.2

To help manage this, parents should try to maintain a consistent bedtime and practice good sleep habits. This includes:

  • Turning off electronics an hour or so before bed
  • Having a bedtime routine, which may include winding down with a bath, a shower, music, or a book
  • Keeping evening meals light
  • Avoid emotional stress and anxiety
  • Avoiding caffeine

In the morning, make sure your child can stay in bed as long as possible. In the evening, set up backpacks, clothing, lunches, and other items your child will need in the morning.

Missed medications

Missing doses of medication can also trigger seizures. The more doses your child misses, the greater the risk of seizure.3

Ask your healthcare provider for tips on how to stay on track with treatments.

Other medications and supplements

Certain medications can also affect seizures. These include some over-the-counter cold medicines and even some herbs. Tell your healthcare provider about all of the medicines your loved one takes, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.4

Fever

Fever and illness can also make seizures more likely.5 Although these are difficult to avoid, it is important to keep a fever down. Talk to your healthcare provider about treatments and techniques to reduce fever, such as cool cloths and tepid baths.

Ovulation and menstruation

If you have a daughter with LGS, you need to be aware that as she becomes an adolescent, ovulation and menstruation may make seizures more likely.6 Be sure to take notes (use a seizure diary) and tell your healthcare provider if you’ve noticed this pattern.

Tracking triggers

In a previous article, we talked about seizure diaries, their usefulness, and the different forms they take. Apart from giving your doctor or nurse a clear picture of how LGS is affecting your child, tracking seizure activity can also help determine triggers. This requires you to be observant of your child’s environment and habits prior to a seizure. By noting possible triggers, you may start to notice a pattern developing. Presenting this data to your child’s doctor or nurse may help him or her recognize a pattern and possibly identify triggers.

Being aware of and avoiding possible triggers may seem like one more thing you need to do to take care of your child. However, with a little effort, you may find that tracking your child’s seizure triggers may help your child avoid those triggers. This may lead to fewer seizures.1

Dr Wolf and Ms McGoldrick run a collaborative partnership in the care of people with epilepsy at a comprehensive epilepsy center in New York.

Dr Wolf and Ms McGoldrick are paid consultants of Eisai Inc.

References:
  1. Schachter SC, Shafer PO, Sirven JI. Triggers of seizures. Epilepsy Foundation Web site. http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/triggers-seizures. Accessed July 19, 2017.
  2. Malow BA. Sleep deprivation and epilepsy. Epilepsy Curr. 2004;4(5):193-195.
  3. Schachter SC, Shafer PO, Sirven JI. Missed medicines. Epilepsy Foundation Web site. http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/triggers-seizures/missed-medicines. Accessed July 19, 2017.
  4. Banzel [package insert]. Eisai Inc; 2015.
  5. Schachter SC, Shafer PO, Sirven JI. Illness and over-the-counter medicines. Epilepsy Foundation Web site. http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/triggers-seizures/illness-and-over-counter-otc-medicines. Accessed July 19, 2017.
  6. Schachter SC, Shafer PO, Sirven JI. Menstruation. Epilepsy.com. http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/triggers-seizures/menstruation. Accessed July 19, 2017.