Dos and Don’ts of Traveling With Epilepsy
Epilepsy affects more people than you might think. Every year in the U.S., 150,000 new cases are diagnosed and over the course of a lifetime, one in 26 Americans will be affected by it. That makes it the country’s fourth most prevalent neurological condition, after migraines, strokes and Alzheimer’s Disease.
In a 2015 study by Definitive Healthcare, Florida Orlando Hospital reported the greatest number of inpatient diagnoses in the country, and Methodist University Hospital in Memphis came in third. The CDC ranks Texas as having the highest number of people with epilepy among the Southern states, followed by Florida and Georgia.
Being diagnosed with a neurological illness can be frightening. How will it impact your day-to-day life? Will it stop you from working? Will you have to give up driving? Will you be unable to travel?
Travel for many people is one of life’s great joys and being forced to give it up for any reason seems a fate too awful to consider. But with epilepsy, do you have a choice? You certainly do; you just have to be prepared to put in a little extra effort with planning.
Here are some important dos and don’ts when preparing to travel with epilepsy:
What to do
Do consult your physician – This is an absolute non-negotiable. Factors such as stress and fatigue associated with travel are known to raise the chances of having a seizure, and it is possible that physical aspects like the change in air pressure on a plane or sharp contrasts in climate could play their part, too. It is therefore essential that you talk to your physician about the risks, talk through a plan for managing them and check you are in good enough health.
Do take your meds with you – This is something else to discuss with your physician. It might be hard to get what you need where you are traveling to, so make sure you have enough to see you through.
Do get the right travel insurance – Your standard travel insurance does not protect you for episodes related to epilepsy. In fact, if you don’t declare your epilepsy, it will invalidate your medical cover completely, leaving you to foot the bill if you need assistance while you are away. It’s not worth taking the risk, so take out special travel insurance for epilepsy and stay covered.
What not to do
Don’t fall out of schedule with your meds – When you are traveling, it is easy to fall out of your normal routines in terms of sleep patterns, when you eat and, yes, when you take your meds. But as seizures are often linked to changes in body chemistry, it is really important that you stick to your medication regime as closely as possible, to keep everything level.
Don’t keep your condition to yourself – If you do have a seizure, you are going to rely on the people around you to help you out and keep you safe while it lasts. Tell your airline, tell your hotel or accommodation hosts, even tell the people sat next to you on the plane. It will frighten them a lot less if you do have a seizure.
Don’t push yourself – As already noted, fatigue can be a risk factor in triggering seizures. When you are traveling, there is sometimes the urge to do absolutely everything, squeeze it all into a short space of time so you don’t feel like you’ve missed out. But if you suffer from epilepsy, that can just leave you feeling wiped out and raise the chance of having a seizure many times over. Your vacation is meant to be a chance to relax anyway, so do yourself a favor and slow down a little.
Photo by Hernan Pinera from Flickr Creative Commons.