Christmas can be such an exciting time of the year, often consisting of your favourite foods, time with loved ones, gifts, warmer weather and of course a visit from the man in red, Santa. However, for many Epilepsy Warriors there are some common seizure triggers around this time of the year, which we wanted to draw your attention to, so that this festive season can be best enjoyed.

Live your life to the full whilst taking some simple steps to look after you or a loved one’s well-being this festive season.

It’s not a West Australian Christmas without a visit to the beach and scorching hot weather

A dip in the refreshing ocean or backyard pool, is a popular way to cool off from the heat over the festive season and can be enjoyed by many Epilepsy Warriors with the correct safety protocols in place. Though to reduce the risk make sure that you have someone with you, no matter your age, and we highly recommend visiting a beach that is patrolled by lifeguards. If you are swimming at a public pool or a source of water that is patrolled and are living with seizures, you should also let the lifeguard know as well. It is important to have a conversation with your doctor or neurologist to ensure that it is safe for you to swim and that you take your anti-seizure medication as prescribed. It is advised that if you have not been taking your anti-seizure medication recently, or have missed a dose or are fatigued, to not swim. The following article outlines some important measures to take for Epilepsy Warriors in the water

Another consideration to be aware of, when spending time in the sun or swimming is the risk of dehydration. Some Epilepsy Warriors notice they may have more seizures when they are dehydrated or overheated. It is important to be adequately hydrated when spending time outside and be aware of electrolyte imbalance, which can also increase your chance of experiencing seizures. So, make sure when you leave the house this summer, that you carry adequate water with you.

Try and remove as much stress as possible

Whilst Christmas is often remembered as a joyful time, for many the lead up to the big event can cause extra stress. Not only is stress identified by many as being a seizure trigger in itself, but stress can cause problems sleeping and a lack of sleep is also a seizure trigger for many Epilepsy Warriors.

This stress is heightened if you are hosting Christmas lunch or dinner or have large groups visiting or staying at your house, which often brings along high expectations and emotional stress. On the other side, stress can also be elevated through the increased feelings of isolation, high expectations, or the missing of loved ones over the festive season. If you are feeling increased feelings of isolation over the festive season, we encourage you to reach out to Lifeline WA (13 11 14) or any other support lines, which are listed here.

The feeling for Christmas to be perfect, often causes stress and financial pressure. 2023 has brought along added financial stress with the ever-increasing interest rate rises, inflation and overall cost of living. Setting budgets and purchasing something small each week in the lead-up to Christmas, to help spread the costs, will help ease some of the financial burden.

Strategies in which you can reduce stress over the festive season include:

If hosting guests, ask people to bring a plate of food. To reduce stress further, go the extra step and assign people specific plates e.g. dessert, side salad or a starter. You will find most people are more than happy to bring a plate to share, so do not feel afraid asking.

Suggest a Secret Santa or Kris Kringle game for gift giving. This removes the need to think of numerous gift ideas for people, and the need to visit multiple shopping destinations, which let’s face it are stressful and busy in the weekends leading up to Santa visiting.

If travelling allow plenty of extra time, as the roads and airports will have an influx of people who are all in a rush.

Where possible, try and avoid having to be at multiple places on Christmas Day. Spread out the celebrations across Boxing Day or even across a few weeks. This will prevent stress, but also keep Epilepsy Warriors feeling fresh and reduce getting overtired. It will also help to maintain a routine.

To reduce stress over the festive season, it is important to practice self-care and prioritise your wellbeing. Take time for yourself in the form of a walk, some yoga, meditation, or doing something that relaxes and resets you. Prioritise sleep and rest and do not be afraid to set social boundaries with others, such as not staying out past 9pm or not going outside if the temperature feels too high. If you find that you need someone to talk to over the festive season, Lifeline is always available on 13 11 14 along with further support numbers listed here

It is also important that you know your seizure triggers, such as stress, so make sure you take a look at our Seizure Triggers Factsheet here

Let’s cheers to zero alcohol beer

Whilst you might feel like you are missing out socially over the festive season, with many people drinking alcohol around you. It is advised that people living with epilepsy are best to avoid alcohol or limit their intake, especially those Epilepsy Warriors who take anti-seizure medication. Fortunately, there are now plenty of zero-alcohol options available from popular alcohol brands, which are great because they can help eliminate some of the social stigma often associated with not drinking. The Epilepsy Foundation has put together a handy fact sheet on epilepsy and alcohol, that we suggest taking a read of.

There are plenty of delicious tasting mocktail recipes out there. Watch out for mocktail recipes that include grapefruit or pomegranate. These fruits may interfere with the way your body processes certain anti-seizure medications, potentially leading to higher medication levels and more side effects. This increases the uncertainty about how the medication affects your body and can vary from person to person based on multiple factors.
So, choose mocktails wisely to avoid these issues.

Our Epilepsy WA Monkey Elf will enjoy a glass of zero alcohol wine over the festive season

Hands up if you think Christmas lunch is the best meal of the year?

Double glazed Christmas ham, pigs and blankets, pasta salad and don’t forget dessert. Apart from some very rare cases of reflex epilepsy, where certain tastes or sensations may be a trigger, in general, specific foods are not known to cause seizures. However, there are some foods that are best to avoid so that you can try to reduce the chance of a seizure, which we touched on above. These include, grapefruit, pomegranate and it is also advised to limit the amount of processed sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

Many Epilepsy Warriors, especially children are recommended by their neurologists to follow the Ketogenic or the Modified Akins Diet, to help manage their epilepsy, which means a diet high in protein and fats. This is the green light to enjoy Christmas ham, roast turkey, and other high protein foods, however anyone who is following a set dietary regimen for their epilepsy should always do so with adequate medical supervision.

It’s a big yes to Christmas Ham from Epilepsy WA

Christmas lights and photosensitive epilepsy For those Epilepsy Warriors living with photosensitive epilepsy, a seizure trigger at Christmas time can be Christmas lights, in particular those that are flickering or flashing.

Photosensitive epilepsy is a type of reflex epilepsy. Epilepsy Warriors living with this type of epilepsy may find that certain speeds of flashing lights or even contrasting light and dark patterns, or other visual stimuli may trigger seizures. The frequency of the speed of the flashing lights, which are likely to cause seizures, varies from person to person, but generally speaking, the flashing lights most likely to cause seizures are between the frequency of 5 to 30 flashes per second. Photosensitive epilepsy is quite rare, occurring in under 5% of people living with epilepsy.

Whilst it might feel hard to control what Christmas lights others put up on display, most importantly you can control what is in your house. If you are visiting another house for some festive activities, you will find if you politely ask if they can turn the Christmas lights off or onto a non-flashing mode, most people will happily do so. Other ways the Christmas cheer can be spread without lights include tinsel and extra baubles on the tree.

Medication and Christmas

It is important to note that majority of pharmacies will close for the Public Holidays over the festive period. With this in mind, it’s important to have an adequate supply of your medication to cover yourself for this period. You should also double-check to make sure your prescriptions are in date, as it might be challenging to get an appointment with your neurologist or GP over this busy time.

As you might have time off work or school, it is easy to slip out of your usual routine and forget to take your medication, which may increase the risk of experiencing a seizure. It is important to continue to take your medication at the same time each day and with food if required. Setting recurring alarms is good practice over the festive season. You might also consider organising Webster-Pak medication packs for the festive break, so that your medication is convenient. Webster-Pak medication packs are also particularly useful if you take multiple medications each day and are heading away, as you can easily take your Webster-Pak instead of multiple packets of medication with you.

Don’t forget to make sure you have enough medication for the festive season

Help is here over the silly season

Our office will be closed from Friday 22nd December and opening for 2024 on Monday 8th January, to give our staff a well-deserved break.

Despite our office closure, help is still available from trusted and reliable emergency services, so please do not hesitate to reach out if you find yourself or a loved one in an emergency or needing someone to chat to.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 000 straight away.

The National Epilepsy Support Service line (NESS) is closed on the Public Holidays, but still operating its standard Monday – Saturday operating hours on other days (6am – 4pm WA time) over the Epilepsy WA office closure period. Please note that this is not a medical emergency line. The NESS line is contactable on 1300 761 487.

If you require urgent support, Health Direct (1800 022 222) has nurses available on their telephone helpline 24/7.  Lifeline WA (13 11 14) is another useful helpline service that is available. The link listed below highlights other support numbers, and includes multiple options for mental health support lines, so please do not hesitate to reach out on the following link here.

If you were wanting to find out more about Seizure Triggers take a look at our factsheet

From everyone at Epilepsy WA, we are thinking of our amazing community and Epilepsy Warriors and their loved ones over this busy period.

Epilepsy WA relies heavily on community donations which help us to provide valuable support services to the 1 in 25 who will be diagnosed and to continue working to bring epilepsy out of the shadows. A donation to our annual Christmas Appeal would enable us to continue supporting the WA community, as we have for the past 60 years.

Please consider donating today.