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Riding Roller Coasters With Epilepsy: Is It Safe?

Medically reviewed by Chiara Rocchi, M.D.
Posted on March 26, 2024

“In a couple of days, I’ll feel the adrenaline rush of roller coasters!” a MyEpilepsyTeam member wrote. “Nothing like roller coasters to de-stress!” While a few members have posted about enjoying amusement park rides, others have asked, “You’re allowed to ride a roller coaster while being epileptic?”

There’s no universal answer on whether roller coasters are safe for people with seizure disorders. Many people with epilepsy are able to enjoy certain rides, depending on the specifics of their medical condition. However, only your neurologist can evaluate your situation to make that call.

Ultimately, theme park rides come with risks for everyone. Whether or not the heightened risk of seizures is worth it is up to you — with guidance from your neurology provider. Here’s what experts typically recommend and what to consider before visiting your next theme park.

Understand the Risks of Thrill Rides

“I’m going to Busch Gardens with my dad in a couple of weeks 😂,” said one member. “Hopefully, I can handle these roller coasters. I love them, so I think it’s worth the risk.”

People with epilepsy face unique risks when visiting amusement parks. Long days outside in the heat, flashing lights, large crowds, loud noises, the motion of the rides, changes to normal routines, and all the excitement can raise the chance of seizures or other accidents.

However, that’s not to say that roller coasters are completely safe for everyone else. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions has collected data on theme park accidents since 2003. Overall, injuries have trended downward over the last 20 years and are generally very rare. Their survey results show that for every million people who attend an amusement park in Canada or the U.S., about 3.7 sustain a ride-related injury. Of these, 11 percent were reported as being serious.

Consider Your Epilepsy Triggers

Some people with epilepsy are more likely to have seizures at certain times of the day or in response to specific triggers, like bright lights.

Other common triggers for epilepsy include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Dehydration
  • Drugs
  • Hormonal changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Sickness
  • Stress

“My triggers are flashing lights, overexertion (which doesn’t take much), overheating, and high levels of stress mixed with lack of sleep,” shared a MyEpilepsyTeam member.

If you know what triggers your seizures, you may have a better shot at preventing them. “I try not to look at any flashing lights or bright lights. I avoid any sudden jerking or fast-moving things,” explained one member.

Another member with photosensitive epilepsy said, “I have the darkest sunglasses in the world. I recommend the brand Gentle Monster.”

Plan Your Theme Park Visit

If you’re visiting an amusement park, there are some steps you can take to make the trip as seizure-free as possible. For example, if heat is a seizure trigger for you, try to plan your outings during cooler weather or schedule time for some indoor activities in air conditioning. Research the park rides ahead of time and see if the facility posts warnings about seizure risk. Locate any medical facilities at the park when you arrive, so you know where to go in an emergency.

Be prepared with a medical alert bracelet, rescue medication, and updated paperwork that explains your or your child’s condition. MyEpilpesyTeam members have shared how these simple steps have made a difference for them. “I have worn medical bracelets since 1991,” said one member. “It saved my life when I had my first tonic-clonic seizure a year later. The medication I was taking and the medication the hospital was going to use would have interacted badly.”

While at the park, set reminders on your phone to eat, drink water, and take medications. This can help you stay on track with consistent habits. Take breaks regularly during the day.

If you typically experience an aura before a seizure comes, make sure you alert someone if you notice the signs. Remain in a safe place.

If you can’t attend an amusement park with your child who has epilepsy, make sure others understand their condition and will be available to help monitor and ensure your child’s safety during the trip.

Discuss Safety With Your Child

Parents of children with epilepsy may feel like they’re caught between a rock and a hard place if their child is going to an amusement park.

“My 14-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with generalized seizures. She loves roller coasters, and we visit Disneyland every year,” said a MyEpilepsyTeam member. “Should we avoid roller coasters? She will not be happy.”

Another member responded, “I have absence and grand mal seizures. I live near Six Flags. I love roller coasters. A couple of years ago, I went to Mexico with my family, and we went upside-down zip-lining. If she is feeling fine and wants to do it, then let her. You can’t always play it safe and shelter her. Make sure she drinks lots of water and gets a lot of sleep while at Disney because it can be hot and make her tired easily.”

Safety should always be your top priority, and sometimes that means saying no. However, having an open discussion with your child about theme parks can keep them involved and empowered. Review the risks with your child and their health care provider, and avoid unnecessary restrictions. If certain rides are not recommended, teach your child to take ownership over their condition with messages like “I’m choosing not to go on this ride because I want to stay safe,” rather than “I can’t go on this ride because I have epilepsy.” While you can’t change your child’s medical condition, you can teach them how to keep a positive perspective.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEpilepsyTeam is the social network for people with epilepsy and their loved ones. On MyEpilepsyTeam, more than 120,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with epilepsy.

Do strobe lights or thrill rides trigger seizures for you? If so, how do you handle trips to the theme park? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on March 26, 2024
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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    Chiara Rocchi, M.D. completed medical school and neurology residency at Polytechnic Marche University in Italy. Learn more about her here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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