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Epilepsy and Travel

Most children with epilepsy and their families are able to travel, nearby or abroad. However, careful planning is necessary to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Tips for safe travel

If you are planning a long trip, or a trip to remote regions or very far from home, you may want to meet with the doctor or members of the epilepsy care team at least four to six weeks before you leave. A long trip may be exhausting and require extra rests. Travel to different time zones may require changes to your child’s medication schedule and sleep schedule.

Inform the epilepsy care team about your trip and ask for their suggestions. Discuss amounts of medication to take, medication schedules, how to contact them in case of emergency, doctors to contact while travelling, doctor or hospital to contact at your destination, and any other concerns you may have. If you’re planning to travel internationally, ask about vaccinations needed and how the vaccinations may affect your child or interact with her medications.

The epilepsy care team or doctor can provide you with a letter that summarizes your child’s condition and treatment, including medications. Keep this letter on hand to show when you need medical care during your travels.

Find out about your child’s medical insurance coverage at your destination. Arrange for coverage beforehand if necessary. In some instances travel insurance abroad may be difficult to obtain because your child has a pre-existing medical condition.

Take enough anti-epileptic medication to last for the entire trip, and some to spare. Keep the extra supply in a separate location from the main supply, in case one of your bags is lost or stolen. If you are taking a plane, make sure all the medication is in your carry-on baggage.

Bring a letter from your doctor in your carry-on baggage explaining your child’s condition and the medications she needs. Also, bring the prescriptions for the medicines.

Take the phone numbers of key members of the epilepsy care team. They may also be able to provide you with the names of experts or clinics in your holiday location. Be prepared for emergencies. Know how to manage a seizure. Know who and what numbers to call in case of emergencies.

Try to keep your child on a regular schedule of eating and sleeping, to minimize the stress and fatigue of travel. Fatigue can lower the seizure threshold in some children.

Ensure your child is well rested before travel.

Make sure your child wears some form of epilepsy identification, such as a medical alert bracelet.

Travel insurance

As with other forms of insurance, it can be more difficult for people with a pre-existing chronic illness, such as epilepsy, to obtain travel insurance. 

More information

Irene Elliott, RN, MHSc, ACNP

Janice Mulligan, MSW, RSW