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Photosensitive Epilepsy Triggers in Children: What To Avoid

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Kirsten Rocamora · Updated Sep 06, 2022

    Photosensitive Epilepsy Triggers in Children: What To Avoid

    Everywhere we look, there are new gadgets continually being launched. These are used heavily in our daily lives. Nowadays, they’re used by children for distance learning and playtime. But how does this really affect a child’s development? Are gadgets good for their children? Regardless of how companies may advertise gadgets as completely kid-friendly, there are still many risks to children using electronic gadgets such as epilepsy. Learn more about photosensitive epilepsy triggers here. 

    Gadgets, kids, and photosensitive epilepsy

    There are plenty of posts on Facebook, Whatsapp, Viber, and different social media platforms wherein people spread “facts” and “warnings regarding gadget use for children.” One of the most popular ones is that if you put your phone under a pillow, it can cause heavy amounts of radiation. But can we trust these, or are they simply just hoaxes spread by fear?

    Another thing mainly spread is the idea of kids using gadgets, which cause seizure episodes. How exactly true is this? Can excessive gadget use really induce epileptic seizures in children?

    What is photosensitive epilepsy?

    But first, photosensitive epilepsy is a type of epilepsy that causes a person exposed to bright or flickering lights to have a seizure. This type of epilepsy is generally related to any type of screen-related media, which makes children susceptible.

    Photosensitive epilepsy may stem from a few causes. There might be a dysfunction with how the child’s brain works, especially since they’re young and their minds aren’t as developed as adults yet. Sometimes, there is an imbalance in the chemical messengers located in the brain, known as neurotransmitters.

    Children like to watch videos and play games using gadgets. A majority of these games often include flashing lights, all with different intensities, and these can become photosensitive epilepsy triggers. These types of epileptic episodes are more common in children than it is with adults.

    Photosensitive epilepsy triggers

    The main trigger that affects a child with photosensitive epilepsy is exposure to lights and visual patterns repeatedly flashing. A small amount of exposure might not matter much, but high degrees of exposure can definitely cause problems. 

    A trigger can be different for each child. These can be from the flicker of television, the bright lights shown on videos, or perhaps visual effects from specific mobile applications and video games. It varies, but the consistency lies in the lights and the strobing effects.

    Even if a child is not as susceptible or has severe photosensitive epilepsy, they can still have seizures. Overexposure to screens and gadgets is very hazardous at a young age. It can trigger epilepsy and cause seizures.

    To some children, their triggers could be simple. Even a bright contrast of colors, whether through pictures or video, might be able to cause a seizure. 

    Can photosensitive epilepsy be treated?

    After understanding photosensitive epilepsy triggers, what about treatments. There is no exact cure for photosensitive epilepsy. This may sound alarming to some parents, but there’s no need to worry. As children grow older, they become less susceptible to the triggers they had as a child. However, there are also a lot of anti-epileptic medicines available that might reduce the probability of seizures.

    If you want to reduce the likelihood of your child having seizures, it would be best to reduce their screen and gadget time. Children shouldn’t be dependent on gadgets for entertainment since there are non-electric options available.

    Aside from that, let children rest frequently. If they really want to use gadgets, make sure it’s at a time where they aren’t too tired, as this can trigger a seizure. Reducing brightness on screens can also help.

    Photosensitive epilepsy can be frustrating, especially for children. Seizures can be unpredictable. But it won’t last forever. Just make sure to prevent anything from happening as early as you can. Also, always consult your pediatrician for any concerns. 

    Learn more about Neurological Diseases in Children here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

    Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

    Written by Kirsten Rocamora · Updated Sep 06, 2022

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