Long gone are the days when a medical condition or disability would prevent a would-be traveller fulfilling their dreams of ticking off a bucket list, but there’s no doubt that travelling with epilepsy requires some forethought and planning in order to stay safe.
According to Epilepsy UK, this condition is a common neurological disorder that affects around one in 103 people and manifests as a tendency towards recurrent seizures, caused by a surplus of electrical activity in the brain. However, despite this commonality, triggers for seizures can vary between individuals and range from lack of sleep and missed meals to recreational drugs and alcohol. It’s important to gain as much information as you can when it comes to managing your condition – and this applies more than ever when you’re planning a trip abroad.
To help build your confidence about travelling with epilepsy, we’ve put together this checklist of considerations, so that you can plan that longed-for holiday without too much stress:
When planning a holiday with epilepsy, the number one task is to pay a visit to your GP. They will be able to offer you advice specific to your condition and circumstances – advice that could prove invaluable when travelling abroad.
It’s important to ensure you take enough medication to last your whole trip (as well as some extra squirrelled away in case you’re delayed for some reason), and a well-thought out schedule to help you navigate timings when crossing different time zones. Missed or late doses could prove to be a seizure trigger so it’s best to play it safe.
Additionally, ensure you take the original prescriptions and packaging of all medication as well as a letter from your doctor, just in case any of your meds are on a controlled substance list; this will also make it much easier should you lose your meds and need to replace them during your holiday. Keep your meds in your hand luggage so they’re close by at all times.
Flying is generally considered safe for epileptics, although advice from British Airways includes refraining from travel within 24 hours of a major seizure. For peace of mind, it is advisable to let your airline know that you are epileptic and which medications you are on so that in the event of a seizure, you know that they are informed and will know the best course of action to take.
Of course, it would be great if you could always have an informed travel companion with you, but in reality, this isn’t always possible. Consider wearing a bracelet or other identifying sign that you are epileptic such as a dog tag necklace that reveals your condition.
Additionally, whilst abroad, you could carry a copy of The Traveller’s Handbook for People with Epilepsy, published by The International Bureau for Epilepsy, which includes first aid information and useful phrases in a variety of languages.
Although triggers for seizures can vary, taking care of yourself mentally and physically whilst travelling could help better manage your condition.
Ensure you get as much sleep as possible and alleviate stress levels with soothing music or even a massage if you have a stopover at a well-equipped airport. Give yourself plenty of time to get from A to B, eat regular meals to keep your blood sugar stable, and drink plenty of water as dehydration has been known to trigger fits.
Although it can be a challenge for people with pre-existing medical conditions to find an insurance policy that will cover their travels abroad, it’s certainly not impossible. Medical Travel Compared offers an online comparison tool to help you gain access to a variety of quality insurers, most of which cater to those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Nine times out of ten, your journey may be incident free, but should you require any hospital stays or medical treatment whilst abroad, this can easily run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Play it safe, and make sure you’re covered.