Layton woman with epilepsy warns against using strobe lights for Halloween decorations

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SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Halloween can be exciting for those who love decorating their homes with spooky displays and festive lights. But it can also be dangerous for people with epilepsy.

Layton resident Jesica Atkinson looks forward to October each year, because she said Halloween is her favorite holiday. But on Monday, she experienced a seizure from one of the strobe lights on her neighbor’s porch.

“It kind of dulls the season. I’d like to be able to enjoy everything just like everyone with a normal brain capacity,” said Atkinson.

She was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 12, but remembers experiencing seizures as early as 3 years old.

“As you grow older, you learn to adapt to your surroundings. You learn coping mechanisms. But children don’t have that yet,” said Atkinson.

After Monday’s episode, she posted on Facebook, asking others to consider keeping their strobe lights inside when decorating for Halloween.

“Some seizures are caused by photo-sensitivity, luminous lights against dark backgrounds,” said Atkinson. “Especially when it’s flashing, the faster it flashes, the more it can cause a trigger for someone with epilepsy.”

Remembering back on her childhood, Atkinson said she’s mostly concerned about children who may have epilepsy but have not been diagnosed yet.

“As a child, your brain is still growing. So if you have epilepsy and are unaware of it, things like strobe lights, fireworks, certain TV programs, certain video games, they all have a light, the luminosity, the fluorescent light, and the pace of flashing that can trigger seizures,” said Atkinson.

News4Utah spoke to the professionals over at Fear Factory Haunted House, where warning signs are visible at the entrance of their attraction. General manager Spencer Terry said there are other ways to spice up your home haunts.

“In general, we forget that there are folks who could have a trigger for one reason or another,” said Terry. “Maybe instead of doing it one way, maybe you can do it another way. It might be using a different kind of decoration. It might be using a different type of lighting, it might be using colored lighting versus white lighting.”

Terry said his staff are also trained to recognize and respond to any health concerns or medical incidents in the case that someone still decides to enter their facility despite the warnings on their waivers and signs.

“We recognize that some people either read over things or don’t see things. We want to make sure our team is taking good care of them as well. At any given time, if a customer is having a safety or health concern, like epilepsy, there’s a very quick and easy route out to where we can get them the services that they need or at least get them out of the facility all together,” said Terry.

Atkinson said she doesn’t want to tell people what to do, but small changes in decoration could be life-changing for someone else who wants to enjoy the Halloween season too.

“I seem to do better myself when there’s a green light bulbs, the orange bulbs, the lighter colors. The flash may be a little bothersome, but it’s never caused a seizure,” said Atkinson.

Terry said Fear Factory Haunted House will host a Blackout night on November 2nd where 90 percent of their lights will be turned off, allowing people with epilepsy to also be able to enjoy their attractions. For more information, click here.

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