Skip to Content

NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.

Healthy You

Seizure Warnings at Movies and What to Know

Thursday, July 12, 2018 9:37 PM

Summer movies are a rite of passage for many of us who want to escape the heat or see the latest blockbuster and who can blame us? Such was the case when Incredibles 2 hit theaters last month and we lined up in anticipation. But the fanfare of the opening was soon followed by a highly unusual health warning.

Epilepsy in Movies

After moviegoers voiced concerns that a “flashing lights” sequence in the film could cause seizures for those with epilepsy, Disney and Pixar contacted theaters to place warning signs outside movie entrances.

Takijah Heard, MD, NorthShore Pediatric Epileptologist, explains why this warning should be taken seriously:

Who should be concerned about the warning?

Patients with known photic sensitive- and/or prone to visually-induced seizures. This may also include their siblings with or without epilepsy.

What is Photic Sensitivity?

Photic sensitivity is a common and frequent phenomenon in the general and the idiopathic generalized epilepsy population. Photic sensitivity is the development of generalized spikes on electroencepahologram (EEG) in response to the visualization of flashing lights.

What types of things can bring on a seizure?

Photic stimulation, hyperventilation, significant brain injury, significant brain infection and; sleep deprivation can all induce seizures in those with epilepsy. Sunlight and television are the most common triggers for photic sensitivity seizures, especially flashing light. These responses are most common with stimulation from 10 to 30 flashes of light per second.

What are warning signs that a seizure may happen?

There are no obvious warning signs for seizures. They are usually abrupt changes resulting in abnormal activity seen clinically.

What happens during a seizure?

Seizures can include jerking, shaking, stiffening or a pause in activity of a single extremity or all extremities. During this time, there might be eye deviation, eye rolling, drooling, verbal utterance or urinary incontinence.

If I see someone having a seizure, what can I do?

  • Move any sharp objects out of the way during a seizure.
  • Never put anything in someone's mouth during a seizure.
  • Place the child on his/her side if they are having a convulsive seizure. This will allow their airway to be opened and to reduce the possibility of choking.
  • If a seizure lasts more than five minutes and Diastat has been prescribed then prepare for its use. If the seizure stops on its own, then it does not need to be administered.
  • Call 911 if using Diastat for the first time
  • If Diastat or a rescue medication is not available and the seizure is lasting more than five minutes, call 911.
  • If seizure is brief, less than five minutes and the child is moving all extremities and is responsive after the seizure, you do not need to go to an Emergency Department.
  •  If you are concerned about your child's breathing or safety at any time, call 911.

How can someone prevent or slow their seizure from happening?

Avoid triggers such as missing medications, sleep deprivation, stress, and illness. If someone has photic sensitive epilepsy; avoid flashing lights. Close your eyes and cover your face and move away from the flashing lights as soon as possible.