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
Talk with your child's epilepsy team
- 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.
- Ask the epilepsy team about how much medication to take, how best to stick to medication schedules, how to store medication in hot or cold climates, how to contact the team in case of emergency, which doctors to contact while travelling, which doctor or hospital to contact at your destination and any other concerns you may have.
- If you are planning to travel overseas, ask which vaccinations are needed and how they might affect your child or interact with their medications.
Understand the effect of travel on your child's health
- Make sure your child is well rested before travel.
- Try to keep your child on a regular schedule of eating and sleeping to minimize the stress and fatigue of travel. Fatigue can place some children at a higher risk of getting a seizure.
- Understand that travel to different time zones may require changes to your child's medication and sleep schedules.
Be prepared if your child needs medical care
- Find out about your child's medical insurance coverage at your destination. Arrange for coverage beforehand if necessary. In some instances, it might be difficult to obtain travel insurance abroad because your child has a pre-existing medical condition.
- Ask the epilepsy care team or your child's doctor for 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.
- Take enough anti-epileptic medication for the entire trip and some to spare.
- Keep the extra supply separately 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. Keep all medications in their original, labelled bottles or packages.
- Bring a letter from your doctor in your carry-on baggage explaining your child's condition and the medications they need. Also bring the prescriptions for the medications.
Be prepared for emergencies
- Take the phone numbers of key members of the epilepsy care team and any names of experts or clinics in your holiday location.
- Know how to manage a seizure. Know who and what numbers to call in case of emergencies.
- Make sure your child wears some form of epilepsy identification, such as a Medic Alert bracelet.
Shawna Silver, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, PEng