Most people with epilepsy can travel without great difficulty. It is a good idea to plan ahead and consider anything that may affect seizures during your trip. Aside from the preparation for taking medications and possible seizures happening, it is good practice to follow some general travel guidelines such as:
- Have copies of your documents with you as well as with someone at home. These should include copies of passport, credit cards, emergency contact numbers of next of kin and numbers to call if you lose any documents of importance.
- Carry copies of these documents separate from the originals, and leave an extra copy at home. Keep them in a waterproof bag or plastic.
- Give friends or family a copy of your itinerary and make regular contact with at least one person.
- Make or update your Will.
- Obtain a letter from you doctor stating your seizure types and medications. This may need to be shown in some countries when going through customs, or if you lose medications or become unwell.
- Ensure you investigate travel insurance. You may have to shop around to find the best one for you as you will be classified as having a pre-existing health condition.
Preparing for your trip
- Well before the departure date visit the doctor and discuss vaccinations needed and what effect these may have on seizure control and medication.
- Investigate travel insurance. Most travel insurance companies regard epilepsy as a pre-existing condition and will charge a higher premium for insurance. Shop around or ask the travel agent for assistance.
- Find out possible health care standards that you can expect at your destination.
- Consider getting a medical ID bracelet that gives details of seizure type and current treatment. Some identification is always advisable particularly when carrying medications.
- As tiredness is a common trigger for seizures avoid fatigue and jet lag by allowing adequate rest time during and immediately after the trip. If the flight is lengthy a stopover should be considered.
- If seizures are likely to occur during the trip take a travelling companion who is familiar with seizures or join an organised tour that has a trip leader who can assist if seizures occur and medical treatment is needed.
- Take ample supply of medications.
- It is important that the medication be carried in the container in which they were dispensed that showing your name, the medication name and dose prescribed.
- Keep a supply of medications in different places, such as baggage and carry-on luggage, so that if you lose one there is a supply somewhere else.
- Check the medication is available in the countries to be visited. It may have a different name or may be slightly different, but the pharmaceutical company can to inform you of these details.
During the flight
- Ask the airline what they do in case of a seizure in-flight so you will know what to expect.
- When travelling, space the medication doses over a 24 hour period if changing time zones. For example if medications are normally taken morning and night then work out or discuss with the doctor a timing regime.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
- Avoid dehydration by drinking adequate amounts of water during the flight.
When in another country
- If you drive in Australia and wish to drive in another country, check their guidelines on driving and epilepsy as these vary from country to country. Having a licence does not automatically mean you can drive in another country.
- Check that drinking water is safe, even brushing your teeth in contaminated water can cause gastric upset. Vomiting & diarrhoea will cause reduce the absorption of the medication and cause seizures.
Have a safe trip and enjoy your travels!
For more information:
EAA Videos – Assoc Prof Cecilie Lander – Travel
Smart Traveller is a useful resource when planning
The Travel Doctor for information on vaccinations and travelling with medications
For further information, phone the Health Insurance Commission’s Drugs Diversion Enquiry line