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What You Need to Know About Roller Coasters and Epilepsy: Summer Fun Series Part 1

What You Need to Know About Roller Coasters and Epilepsy

It’s summertime and this tends to be the time of year families make the time to let loose and have some fun by planning vacations, visiting amusement parks, playing summer sports, and of course swimming. When you have epilepsy, especially when it isn’t yet controlled, it can cause you to take pause and wonder if doing these things is safe? Should you still do things or should they be avoided? In this three-part series, we will talk about if someone with epilepsy can go to amusement parks, play sports, and swim? For our first part, I will be talking about amusement parks and epilepsy. Much of the information I use was found on The Epilepsy Foundation website.

Tip 1: Know Your Triggers and Plan Around Them

My most uncontrolled years I was still a kid. My seizures were out of control in preteen years through my twenties. Obviously, I wanted to have fun and I admit I did go to amusement parks and rode as many roller coasters and rides I could before we had to leave. Thankfully, I never had a seizure while having this fun and it wasn’t luck. It was careful planning by my parents and myself that kept the chances of having a seizure as minimal as possible.

We knew my triggers were sleep deprivation and possibly hormonal. We never confirmed the second one. So we made sure I got at least 8 hours of good sleep before our day of fun and if it was a field trip we made sure the adults in charge knew seizure safety 101 and that a friend from my group also knew what to do. This way I could have my fun and stay safe.

What is a seizure trigger?

So before going on the big trip ask yourself: What are my triggers? Then plan around them. Are you sensitive to light and need to avoid rides with cameras? Are you sensitive to noise and need to avoid rides with any sudden loud bangs? If it helps write your triggers down and make a plan with those who are going with you so they can be aware and help you with your plan on the day of fun.

Tip 2: Plan for the Worst

If you plan on staying safe during your trip to the amusement park then you need to prepare for the worst. This means asking yourself the scary questions.

  • What happens if I have a seizure on a ride?
  • What happens if I have a seizure somewhere in the park?
  • Will people know what to do?
  • What can I do to make sure people take appropriate action?

Ask yourself these questions and try and plan out the answers. Once you figure out your answers create a plan that you can share with those coming with you. Find out the parks emergency protocol. Would they be required to call 911 or would they take you to first aid? Is your medical id updated? Are you carrying a small list of medications? The more detailed your plan for the worst case scenario the better!

Seizure Safety 101

Tip 3: Consult Your Doctor

When planning a trip like this whether it be just for the day or for a longer stay it is always a good idea to ask your doctor for their opinion. Every case of epilepsy is different. It varies as much as people do and because of that, it’s a good idea if a medical professional weighs in on your plans. They can review and even help you come up with a good emergency plan and they may have some tips that you may never have even thought of. If you have your plan ready you can bring it to them and ask them if anything needs to be added for your trip. Knowing you have a doctor approved safety plan can make enjoying the day so much easier.

Tip 4: Familiarize Yourself With the Park and Its Rides

Before you go to the amusement park take the time to get to the know the park as much as you can.

  • Make sure you know where the first aid station is
  • Get to know the rides and figure out if possible which ones you need to avoid because of your triggers
  • Locate the nearest hospital just in case
  • Be prepared to ask park staff questions about rides that you think might pose a seizure risk.

Some bigger parks like Disney World have very well marked rides that will indicate it could be a seizure risk for someone. These bigger parks can be easier to navigate around any possible risks. Smaller parks may not be as well marked and you might have to ask an employee if it has any flashing lights or sudden loud noises. If in doubt at all about a ride just skip it. There is always plenty to do and ride in an amusement park no matter the size and it isn’t worth jeopardizing your safety for one ride.

Tip 5: Plan A Few Breaks

It is important to plan a few breaks in your day to minimize your chance of having any seizures. For me when I attend amusement parks I make it a rule to make sure I sit down in a shaded area while I eat. This gives me the breaks I need without feeling like I am missing out on all the fun. Everyone has to eat right? Ideally, if the park has a sit-down restaurant somewhere I would opt for that as it would provide a longer and likely cooler break than sitting at a picnic table or bench, but beggars can’t be choosers. If you go to something like a carnival a sit-down place to eat isn’t likely to pop up. My goal was to sit or rest at least 3 times and any time I felt a little off. It’s better to squeeze in some rest breaks and minimize any seizure risk than to push too hard and ruin the whole day.

Conclusion

So can you attend an amusement park this summer? In all likelihood yes, you can. It just takes more planning than your average person. If you go well prepared you should be just fine. To help you prepare be sure to grab my FREE Seizure Safety Guide. It is a printable guide you can carry with you with emergency seizure info from the Mayo Clinic and CDC should you have a seizure. It will be one less thing for you to have to put together before your trip. Print as many copies as you want! After you confirm your email it will be sent straight to your inbox in a new email.

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