Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

15 min read

Travel is a heady mix of excitement, discovery, and at times, unpredictability, which can be both invigorating and anxiety-inducing for anyone. For the approximately 65 million people worldwide living with epilepsy, travel preparation isn't just about passport control and the right adapter plug—it's a comprehensive strategy that should integrate seamlessly into the joy of exploration. This post is tailored for the epilepsy community, outlining detailed advice that ensures comfort, safety, and peace of mind when hitting the road.

Importance of a Comprehensive Checklist for Epilepsy Travellers

Travelling with epilepsy requires thoughtful planning and organisation. A checklist acts as an anchor, grounding you in a series of preparatory steps that safeguard against potential hiccups. For individuals with epilepsy, consistency in medication and lifestyle plays a crucial role in day-to-day management, and maintaining this consistency abroad is vital. But beyond the logistical necessities, a checklist fosters a sense of readiness that’s a powerful antidote to the uncertainties of epilepsy.

In this exhaustive guide, we cover essential tips from medication management to selecting the suitable insurance, ensuring you can forge ahead with your travel plans, knowing that you've prepared as best as you possibly could.

1. Preparing Medication and Medical Information

Ensure Adequate Supply of Medication

When planning your travel, it's paramount to make sure you have an ample supply of your epilepsy medication. Begin by consulting with your healthcare provider well in advance of your trip to secure a prescription that covers the entire duration of your travels, plus a bit extra. Why the additional amount? It serves as a cushion should you face delays or unexpected extensions of your trip. Besides, it's wise to consider the availability of your medication in the destination country. Not all medications are readily accessible worldwide, so having a sufficient supply is crucial.

Another handy tip is to keep your medication in its original packaging, complete with pharmacy labels and your name. This not only helps in case of emergencies but also facilitates smoother passage through airport security and customs, providing clear evidence that the medication is prescribed to you.

Splitting your medication between your carry-on and checked luggage is a strategy that ensures you're covered, even if one bag gets lost. Remember, the goal is to maintain your medication regimen as consistently as possible, mirroring your routine back home to manage your epilepsy effectively while you're away.

Pack a Medical Alert Card or Bracelet

Having a medical alert card or wearing a medical alert bracelet is an essential measure for anyone travelling with epilepsy. In the event of a medical emergency, these items communicate critical health information to first responders and medical personnel who may not be familiar with your medical history. They provide instant access to key details such as your epilepsy condition, the types of seizures you experience, emergency contacts, and any specific medical instructions or medication allergies.

Not only do they speak for you when you might not be able to, but they also ensure that you receive the right treatment as quickly as possible, potentially averting exacerbation of your condition. Furthermore, medical alert cards and bracelets are universally recognised, making them useful tools no matter where in the world you find yourself. They embody a simple yet profoundly effective layer of protection, offering peace of mind to both you and your loved ones while exploring new horizons. These precautions allow you to enjoy the delights of travel with the confidence that your health needs are addressed.

2. Communication and Support

Educating Your Travel Companions

Travelling with companions when you have epilepsy means you’re not going through it alone. It’s vital to educate your travel companions about your epilepsy for several reasons that underscore both safety and comfort. Firstly, it ensures they understand what epilepsy is and dispels any myths or misconceptions they might hold. Knowledge is power, and when your companions are well-informed, they can react more calmly and effectively if you have a seizure.

Secondly, educating your travel buddies about how to handle a seizure—knowing what to do and what not to do—can be life-saving. They should understand the importance of staying calm, timing the seizure, and never trying to restrain you or put anything in your mouth. This reassurance can make all the difference in managing a potentially stressful situation with confidence and composure.

Furthermore, knowing about your condition means your companions can assist in maintaining your medication schedule, especially if time zones change or if activities disrupt your normal routine. They can also serve as an extra set of eyes, helping to ensure that your environment remains as safe and epilepsy-friendly as possible.

Lastly, sharing your epilepsy story with your travel mates can foster a deeper sense of trust and camaraderie. Travel is about experiences, and knowing you’re supported allows you to fully immerse yourself in the adventure, free from undue worry about your condition. It’s about enjoying the journey together, safe in the knowledge that you have a supportive network right there with you.

Planning Rest into Your Itinerary

While crafting your travel itinerary, integrating periods of rest is not just beneficial—it's essential, especially for those navigating the challenges of epilepsy. Travel can be inherently demanding, with long flights, time zone changes, and the excitement of exploring new places all taking their toll on the body's natural rhythms. For individuals managing epilepsy, fatigue can serve as a trigger for seizures, making it imperative to prioritise rest to maintain well-being.

Incorporating rest periods into your travel schedule allows your body to adjust and recover, minimising the risk of fatigue-induced seizures. It's about striking a balance between adventure and relaxation, ensuring that your health remains a top priority. Consider scheduling downtime after long flights or busy days of sightseeing. This not only helps in seizure management but also enhances your overall travel experience, allowing you to enjoy each activity more fully.

Planning for rest is a proactive step in epilepsy management while travelling. It acknowledges the unique needs of those with epilepsy, ensuring that travel is both enjoyable and safe. This strategy highlights the importance of listening to your body and giving it the recuperation time it needs, so you can explore the world with confidence and reassurance.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE

Top Tips for Travelling with Epilepsy

Dr Sarah Jarvis is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

For most of us, the fact that holidays are so different from the rest of our lives is part of the appeal – different weather, different routine, different time zones, exotic locations. But while it's perfectly possible to holiday safely if you have epilepsy, some of these changes can increase the risk of more frequent seizures.

With a few simple precautions and a little advance planning you can keep the risk of seizures to a minimum and maximise the chance of coming back with nothing but happy memories.

Find out more in my Top Tips for Travelling with Epilepsy.

Read more

3. Safety and Insurance

Ensuring Insurance for Pre-existing Medical Conditions

When planning your travels, especially when living with epilepsy, selecting a travel insurance policy that covers pre-existing medical conditions is a crucial step not to be overlooked. This type of travel insurance is specifically designed to offer you peace of mind, knowing that should your epilepsy affect your plans or health while abroad, you're covered.

Why is this so important? First and foremost, it's about financial protection. Medical care abroad can be extremely costly, and without appropriate insurance coverage, the expenses incurred from any epilepsy-related treatment or hospitalisation could be overwhelming. Travel insurance that acknowledges and covers your epilepsy ensures that, in the unfortunate event of a medical emergency, you're not facing substantial out-of-pocket expenses on top of health concerns.

Moreover, such comprehensive coverage typically includes support services that are invaluable during emergencies. This could range from medical repatriation, if deemed necessary, to direct communication with medical professionals who understand your condition and can provide immediate, appropriate advice.

Additionally, these tailored insurance policies take into account the possibility of trip cancellations or interruptions due to your epilepsy, offering compensation where general policies might not. This feature can alleviate any apprehension about losing out financially if a seizure leads to a last-minute change in plans.

While travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions, like epilepsy, might come at a higher premium, the benefits and safety nets it provides are irreplaceable. It allows you to travel the world with one less worry, confident in the knowledge that both your health and your financial investment in your travels are securely protected.

Consulting Your Doctor

Before setting off on your travels, having a consultation with your doctor or epilepsy specialist is a wise step for anyone managing epilepsy. This meeting provides an opportunity to review your current health status, discuss any concerns you might have about travelling, and potentially update your treatment plan to better suit your travel itinerary.

Your doctor can offer tailored advice on managing your epilepsy while away from home, including medication management across different time zones and how to cope with potential triggers you might encounter. They can also provide you with a letter explaining your condition and treatment needs, which can be incredibly useful for airport security, travel insurance companies, and medical professionals abroad.

Additionally, this consultation is a chance to discuss and possibly receive vaccinations required for your destination, ensuring they are safe for someone with your condition. Your doctor can also advise you on general travel health advice, further ensuring your well-being while abroad.

Tracking Seizures

Before you set off on your next adventure, tracking your seizures could be an incredibly helpful step for anyone living with epilepsy. This practice is not just about recording when seizures occur; it's a proactive approach to understanding your epilepsy and managing it effectively while you're away from your usual support systems.

Firstly, keeping a detailed seizure log provides invaluable insights into potential triggers and patterns. This knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions about your travel plans, such as avoiding activities that might increase the likelihood of a seizure. It's also beneficial in planning your medication schedule, especially if crossing time zones is on your itinerary.

Furthermore, this record can be a crucial communication tool. Sharing it with your healthcare provider can help them tailor advice and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment before you travel. Additionally, in the event that you need medical assistance while abroad, being able to provide detailed information about your seizures and their triggers can greatly assist local medical professionals in offering effective care.

Lastly, tracking seizures enhances your confidence and peace of mind. Travelling with epilepsy comes with its own set of challenges and uncertainties. However, armed with a comprehensive understanding of your condition, you're better equipped to manage your epilepsy, making your travel experiences as safe and enjoyable as possible.

4. Additional Tips for a Synchronised Journey

Maintaining Health and Hydration

Maintaining good health and staying hydrated is particularly vital for travellers with epilepsy, not just as a part of their everyday routine, but even more so when they're on the move. Proper hydration and health management play a pivotal role in stabilising seizure thresholds and preventing potential triggers that could prompt a seizure.

Dehydration, for instance, is a known factor that can increase the risk of seizures. This is especially pertinent when travelling, as changes in schedule, climate, and activity levels can all lead to insufficient fluid intake without one realising it. Additionally, staying well-hydrated helps ensure that any medication taken for epilepsy is properly absorbed and metabolised by the body, maintaining its efficacy.

On top of hydration, overall health maintenance includes adequate sleep, nutrition, and stress management. Disruptions in any of these areas can affect seizure control. Travel can often lead to irregular eating patterns, sleep disruptions due to jet lag, and increased stress levels—all of which are potential seizure triggers. Being proactive in managing these aspects by planning meals, incorporating rest into the travel itinerary, and adopting stress-reduction techniques can significantly contribute to the wellbeing of a traveller with epilepsy.

Therefore, by prioritising health and hydration, individuals with epilepsy can not only reduce the risk of seizures but also enhance their overall travel experience, making it safer and more enjoyable. It's about creating an environment where the body and brain can function at their best, despite the change in routine and external conditions that come with travelling.

Managing Stress

Managing stress is crucial for travellers with epilepsy, as stress can significantly impact seizure control. Stress is known to be a common trigger for seizures, and travel, despite being an enjoyable and enriching experience, can be inherently stressful. Planning ahead, packing, adhering to schedules, and navigating unfamiliar environments can all contribute to increased stress levels.

Before travel, taking steps to minimise stress can involve thorough planning, including researching your destination, understanding the medical facilities available there, and preparing a comprehensive travel itinerary that includes rest periods. Additionally, familiarising yourself with stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or meditation can be immensely beneficial. Practising these techniques regularly before your trip can make it easier to implement them while travelling.

During your travels, maintaining a flexible schedule that allows for downtime can help manage stress. It's also important to communicate your needs with travel companions, who can offer support in managing your itinerary to include stress-reducing activities or rest. Remember, it's okay to take a step back and rest if you're feeling overwhelmed. Ensuring you take time to enjoy and process your travel experiences can also help in reducing stress and making your trip more enjoyable.

Packing Essentials and Emergency Preparedness

Include specifics for managing your condition in your travel kit. This may involve packing extra batteries for medical devices like glucose monitors or hearing aids, a reliable flashlight for emergencies, and a well-stocked first aid kit with essential supplies. Additionally, it's crucial to prepare an emergency contact list that includes both local and international contacts, familiarise yourself with local emergency numbers , and ensure your mobile phone is equipped with important contacts. Consider downloading translation apps for seamless communication in case of language barriers during your travels.

Finally, don't forget to bring along a copy of your medical information and travel insurance documents in case of any emergencies that require medical attention. It's also advisable to have a written record of your medications, doses, and schedules for easy reference.

By being prepared with these essentials, you can feel more confident and secure while travelling, knowing that you have the necessary tools

Travelling with epilepsy can be a fulfilling experience with the right precautions and planning. By following this checklist, you can ensure that you're prepared for a safe and enjoyable adventure. Remember, your checklist may be different from others, tailored to your unique needs, so take these tips, adapt them, and add your personal criteria. Now, pack your bags with confidence, secure in the knowledge that you’re ready to explore your world!

A pre-existing is any medical condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received before applying for a travel insurance policy. For some conditions, we'll need to know if they have ever been present, whilst for others if they occurred within a certain period.

Medical expenses abroad and repatriation can be very expensive. Having travel insurance that includes cover for existing medical conditions is the best way to ensure you are protected from financial loss in the event of having to cancel the holiday or receive emergency medical treatment abroad.
Yes. Any changes to your health or medication that occurs before your departure need to be declared to your insurer.

If you are going on 2 or more trips a year, then an Annual Trip policy may save you money!

Suppose you’ve had hepatitis or are currently suffering from hepatitis and want to travel. In that case, you should always speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional before booking anything. Looking into specialised medical travel insurance means you can travel with peace of mind that you're covered should anything happen regarding your condition whilst you’re away.


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