Air pollution, cold weather can induce epileptic seizures: study

Taichung,  Patients with epilepsy are more likely to suffer seizures due to air pollution and winter weather conditions, according to a study done by a Kuang Tien General Hospital doctor that was presented Monday.

The five-year study by Kuang Tien pediatrician Chiang Kuo-liang (江國樑) observed the correlation between epileptic seizures and such factors as seasonality, meteorological conditions, and air pollution exposure.

The observations were made based on outpatient and inpatient data from Taiwan’s national health insurance database from 2009 to 2013, meteorological data from the Meteorological Bureau, and air pollution exposure data from Taiwan’s air quality monitoring stations.

In his study, Chiang found that the number of hospital visits by epileptic patients in Taiwan in January and February was significantly higher than in other months.

Average visits per day by month were also closely correlated with several variables, the most obvious being air pollutants such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), PM2.5, and non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), the study found.

The high atmospheric pressure in winter was also a contributing factor, Chiang said.

When continental cold air masses from Mongolia and Siberia overlap with the equatorial warm air in Taiwan, they can form extremely humid and dense air masses, leading to higher surface pressure, he said.

According to the study, although epilepsy can have both genetic and acquired causes, barometric pressure changes can overstimulate the brain’s nervous system and thus can easily induce seizures.

Chiang said patients are advised to pay more attention to weather changes, keep warm, maintain a light diet, avoid spicy food, sleep well, and exercise properly to enhance immunity, and avoid going out on cold rainy days.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder or ailment that can affect people of any age group. The ailment is characterized by unpredictable or untimely seizures, which could lead to other health complications.

Chiang’s study titled “The effect of weather, air pollution and seasonality on the number of patient visits for epileptic seizures: A population-based time-series study” was published by the American peer-reviewed medical journal Epilepsy and Behavior on Dec. 13.


Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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