Practical steps – Epilepsy and Coronavirus

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Submitted by Carol Ireland

Medical advice relating to the coronavirus is the same for anyone with epilepsy as for the general public. People with epilepsy are no more likely to get the coronavirus than anyone else. Still, we do recognise that respiratory and fever symptoms could trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy, and have a bigger impact on people with coexisting or complex medical conditions.

As reports on the coronavirus, or COVID-19, constantly roll in and phrases like “possible pandemic” and “state of emergency” are thrown around, it’s hard not to feel anxious.

One of the best things to do to reduce anxiety in times of uncertainty is to look for ways to increase certainty. For starters, follow the usual health advice to prevent the virus from spreading—wash your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and self-quarantine if you feel sick.

Practical steps

Make sure you have a constant supply of your medication:

  • Take your prescription to your pharmacy in plenty of time – a week or two before you need your medication. This will allow your pharmacist to call other pharmacies or suppliers if there are any delays in getting your medication.
  • Ordering your prescription in good time will also enable you to visit another pharmacy if your own pharmacy becomes temporarily closed due to the coronavirus.
  • Do not try to stockpile your medication in case you have to self-isolate. This could cause shortages of medications for others. It is best to carry on as normal.

Stay healthy and manage stress

  • Make sure you’ve got a good sleep routine, eating healthy, doing some exercise, and managing your emotions.
  • Well rested people are better at fighting off sickness. Stress can weaken your immune system.
  • Meditation can help reduce stress. Mindfulness and meditation apps, such as Headspace, Smiling Mind, Calm and Unplug Meditation offer some great programs
  • Keep your home well ventilated by keeping the window open.
  • Limit your time watching, reading or listening to the news. Hearing about the pandemic over and over can increase your anxiety. Tune in once a day just to touch base.

Medical issues

  • Avoid going to hospital or doctors’ rooms when you can. Obviously, sometimes it will be necessary to go to hospital or see your doctor, but if you can avoid that face-to-face contact, please do. Fortunately a lot of doctors are now engaging in telehealth consultations so a virtual consult is the safest option.
  • Put off any medication changes for this time. Medication changes put you at a higher risk of seizures, which may find you ending up in hospital, so wait for a few weeks until the COVID situation is a little clearer.
  • Also avoid any non-urgent medical tests. EEG’s can wait in most situations except seizure emergencies.
  • If you or a family member has emergency medication prescribed, make sure you have supplies, and give the medication at the earliest recommended stage of the seizure to avoid a hospital admission.

Wearing a face mask

Worried about wearing a face mask?

If your seizures are well controlled, you need to stay safe the same ways as for those who do not have epilepsy.

If your seizures are not well controlled, look at your own circumstances and risks, and what you think will work best for you, while staying safe.

A new report published by an international group of epilepsy experts, including Professor Helen Cross*, has examined safety issues around wearing masks for people with epilepsy. The report finds that, “while there is no concrete evidence, wearing a mask may simulate hyperventilation for some people, which in turn may provoke a seizure. However, in the absence of any treatment or vaccine for Covid-19, prevention remains the best strategy and masks are most likely to be effective in helping to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Suggested advice is:

  • Whether you need to, or want to wear a mask, try not to wear it for long periods. Have short mask-free breaks in a safe location.
  • It is sensible to wear a mask in crowded locations such as public transport and shops where physical distancing is difficult.
  • Do not wear a mask while undertaking extensive physical exercise, as long as there is no close contact with others.
  • It is considered reasonable to remove a mask from someone having a seizure or recovering from a seizure to help assist breathing.
  • Always use other essential safety measures, such as good hand hygiene and physical distancing.
  • If you have concerns about wearing a mask, speak to your doctor.

For the full report Click Here

Remember:

Most cases of the coronavirus are going to be mild, and people are going to recover without the need for hospitalisation.

We have weathered outbreaks before, where there was a lot of uncertainty in the early days.

If you need to self-isolate, order your shopping online to avoid contact with other people. Let the supermarket know you are in isolation.

Epilepsy Nurse Line

If you would like to talk to someone about your epilepsy or that of a loved one or someone you care for, please call our Epilepsy Nurse Line on 1300 37 45 37.

More information

Visit the Healthdirect Coronavirus (COVID-19) hub for reliable information about COVID-19.

Comments:

Jim ransom

26 March 2020

Thank you for such a comprehensive and user friendly tool in the covid 19 emergency.

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Comments:

Jodie

25 March 2020

As a parent of two teens with Epilepsy the continued updates and advice have been wonderful. Thank you so much xo

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Comments:

Kevin Brooks

19 March 2020

I just found out that my 2 children with epilepsy have to isolate themselves ,because there more of a risk of getting covid-19. Pharmacist told me today when I was picking medication up

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Comments:

David Napier

18 March 2020

Tried both Coles & Woolworths for home delivery, not available, both my wife and I after discussing with my son who is in a position to know what is happening hour by hour to self isolate, we have stopped all care services for me, have used Telehealth very satisfactory, not even my family can enter my home, and my wife is not able to leave me, very challenging times...

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