You should plan on travelling with a companion unless completely confident that you will not need any sort of assistance from anyone whilst you are on holiday, especially if you have any disabilities. It is not the responsibility of hotel staff or resort representatives to attend to the personal needs of clients. Consider the best time of year to travel as excessive heat in some countries could cause problems. Travelling outside the peak months can mean slightly cheaper prices, less crowded resorts and a cooler climate.
Be honest in stating your epilepsy. In order to book a holiday for yourself, and particularly accommodation which is suitable, your travel agent, will need information about any limitations imposed by your epilepsy. This includes not only details on difficulties concerning seizures, but also any impairment of mobility or incontinence.
The necessary arrangements can then be made. Be sure to point out any special facilities or care you will require upon arrival at your destination, for example, any special room or transportation requirements.
Take out adequate medical insurance. Check that medical facilities are available and that your insurance will cover the cost, or that you can afford to pay for them yourself. Medical expenses can be reclaimed in EC Countries by using an E111 form. Ensure that you have more than enough medication to last the entire holiday, including a written prescription for your epilepsy drugs – with dosage amounts clearly stated – in case of emergency. Check with your airline before you travel to see if they require medical certificates, eg. British Airways need a medical certificate from your physician while Swissair require a standard medical certificate.
Airlines on request remind you of medication times during your flight. If medication is to be carried, for customs purposes the items should be in their original container and clearly marked. Be careful to adjust your medication schedule get a gradual transfer to new times zones. The usual interval between taking your medication should be continued. Before departure establish a pattern of times to take your medication during the flights, on arrival and during the adjustment period. If required, consult your physician for advice.
Travelling abroad can often disrupt sleep patterns due to early departure times or long journeys. Lack of sleep can often bring on seizures so every effort should be made to maintain the number of hours that you normally sleep.
In hot climates there is a temptation to drink large amounts of water or soft drinks to stop dehydration, but you may find that too much liquid can cause seizures. Try to keep this in mind during your holidays. Alcohol can interfere with anti-epilepsy drugs. It produces a brief suppression of seizures and then a rebound. The more alcohol you drink, the more serious the rebound. Low blood sugar can cause seizures so when travelling try to eat regularly and if this isn’t possible due to flight times, take a snack with you.
1. If cycling, helmets should be worn and very busy roads avoided.
2. When walking, you should not be close to the outside edge of the pavement, try to avoid walking close to water and cross the road either by subway or marked crossing.
3. If using public transport try to keep away from the edge of the station platform, stand clear of any doors and avoid travelling upstairs in a bus.
If the hotel offers balconies for its rooms you should consider the risk this could involve if you have a seizure, similarly if you have to climb stairs rather than using a lift take the appropriate care.
On arrival at your accommodation check for sharp objects which could be harmful to you during a seizure. Take the same precautions relating to bathing abroad as you do at home.
Discos and nightclubs should be avoided if you have photosensitive epilepsy.
Sport involving water, eg. swimming or fishing is perfectly safe as long as you are accompanied by a friend or relative who can be nearby in case of an emergency. Cycling should only be considered if you do not have frequent seizures. If horse riding, head protection should be worn.
There are certain illnesses which will affect your medication including infections and traveller’s diarrhoea, both of which cause fluctuations in the levels of anti-epileptic drugs in the bloodstream for different reasons. Seek medical attention should you suffer from either of these conditions for more than 24 hours. The use of anti-malarial agents can affect your medications so check with your physician before taking them.
In general the granting of a licence is done after a period of 2 years being seizure free. Hiring a car abroad may therefore be subject to restrictions so check with the hire company or tour operator for details.
When taking out holiday insurance check the small print as companies may not insure you if you have epilepsy, because it could be said that there is more risk of an accident occurring. Check under the pre-existing medical condition clause, which many companies have now removed, to see if you are covered. Enquire at your national epilepsy organisation about insurance companies which do not discriminate against people with epilepsy. You may have to pay a somewhat increased premium.
Excerpt from The Epilepsy Passport – MMD: Revised April 2002