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Common Questions on Coronavirus & Epilepsy

In this section of our COVID-19 information site, we outline responses to some of the most common questions which has been forward to our team since the onset of the pandemic. Please continue to do all you can to follow public health advice to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in order to help yourself and others from the virus. If you need any further information, advice or support regarding your epilepsy during this time, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your local Community Resource Officer.

Are people with epilepsy more likely to contract the virus as a result of having epilepsy?

There is currently no data to suggest that people with epilepsy are more at a higher risk of contracting the virus compared to the public. Through our membership of the International Bureau of Epilepsy COVID-19 taskforce, we are regularly in communication with experts and organisations around the globe about this question and will continue to monitor this.

Will people with epilepsy be more adversely affected if they contract the virus?

There is no data to suggest that you will be more adversely affected by the virus due to having epilepsy.

However, with that in mind, we have all heard now of personal testimonies of those who have contracted the virus and the varying ways they have been affected. Much like epilepsy, the virus’ presentation from person to person – and the impact it has on them – varies, so we must continue to do everything we can to ensure we are all following public health guidelines.  

It is also important to note that the virus could cause a fever which in turn can be a seizure trigger for people with epilepsy and lead to seizures for some people. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that while the virus itself may not more adversely affect a person with epilepsy compared to the public, it could have an impact on the existing condition – i.e, epilepsy.  This is why it is important that you continue to follow public health advice.

Should people with epilepsy wear a mask?

We have a special section on the wearing of masks & epilepsy within this COVID-19 information site. You will be redirected to this section by clicking the link below:

Should people with epilepsy get vaccinated?

We have a special section on vaccination within this COVID-19 information site. You will be redirected to this section by clicking the link below:

Do you have any tips on virtual appointments?

Virtual appointments have become commonplace since the onset of the pandemic but can still be a new experience for many. See the link below to read the article we prepared on best practice on preparing for virtual appointments.

What do I do if I experience symptoms of COVID-19?

See the video below from the HSE.

Drink plenty of fluids and take 1 gram of paracetamol (two 500mg tablets) every 6 hours to reduce fever to avoid the chance of a breakthrough seizure.

Do you have any tips on self-isolating?

If you have regular seizures, particularly tonic-clonic, or any that could cause harm, it would be advisable to always inform family, or carers that you are self-isolating so that you can be checked on. You should also ensure you have all your medication prescriptions in supply and up to date. Make sure to have your phone to hand, along with a charger and if possible arrange for calls to a family member/ carer/ friend at pre-arranged intervals e.g. on the hour.

Related to the need to self-isolate and also owing to COVID19 in general, we are receiving increased queries regarding seizure alarms & monitors. If you are thinking of purchasing an alarm, see our Safety & Seizures booklet for further information and do not hesitate to contact your local Community Resource Officer.

I have heard that people with respiratory problems associated with COVID19 have been recommended to lie prone (on their stomach) to improve air entry to the lungs – what do we recommend for people with epilepsy who develop COVID19?

Recent evidence has suggested improved breathing in people with COVID19 when placed on their front (prone position). This has caused some concern for some people with epilepsy as sleeping in a prone position has previously been associated with Sudden Unexplained death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). For this reason, advice has been given not to sleep in the prone position. The use of anti-suffocation pillows has also been advocated.

People with both epilepsy and serious breathing difficulty due to COVID-19 are likely to be hospitalised, where medical professionals can provide guidance on sleeping position, as well as ongoing supervision. In a non-hospital environment, a risk/benefit analysis has to be taken into account. Therefore, advice is likely to depend on the severity of the COVID19 disease, the type and severity of epilepsy and other considerations. You should seek advice from your own medical professional before adjusting your sleeping position at home.