Holidays and Travel

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Below are some tips for making your holiday at home or abroad as problem free as possible. It’s advisable to discuss travel plans with your doctor especially if travelling long haul, to areas requiring vaccinations, or where malaria occurs, as well as deciding which activities may be suitable for you. Travelling and all the preparation for it can be tiring in itself so try to make sure you are well rested before the journey. When you arrive taking some time to rest first before unpacking and exploring the area will give you a chance to recharge after your journey.

Choosing locations and accommodation

When booking accommodation ground level is typically safer, especially for people with frequent seizures. If seizures involve wandering ask to see a plan or layout of accommodation and choose to stay farhter from the pool. Apartments and hotels often have balconies and easily accessible pools so knowing the layout in advance helps you plan to reduce risk. If you won’t be driving on holiday choose accommodation served by public transport. Remember the same safety advice that applies at home applies on holiday too with regard to cooking, bathing, sleeping and being out and about. To try to ensure a restful night’s sleep you may wish to choose a less lively location Try choose a location with ready access to medical services should you require them

Checklist for Holidays

  • European Health Insurance Card for EU countries (formerly E111) available from the HSE free of charge at www.ehic.ie
  • Travel Insurance – needed in the EU due to variable cover under EHIC and outside EU where EHIC cover does not apply
  •  Enough supply of daily medication for your trip in it’s original packaging kept in hand luggage, allow extra for any delays
  • Emergency medication (if prescribed)
  • Airline guidelines on carrying liquid medications
  • Letters from doctors stating medication is for your epilepsy
  • Copies of prescriptions (Pharmacists in EU can dispense on EU prescriptions but outside EU they can be re-prescribed)
  • Copy of the IBE Travellers Handbook
  • Contact details of epilepsy groups or medical services in the country you are travelling to.
  • Updated Epi-Alert bracelet (within Republic of Ireland), wearable ID jewellery, card with local translation
  • Ventilated pillow for sleep seizures (or if one is used. alternatively, use no pillow.)
  •  2 watches to track time gap 1 on Irish time, 1 on local time
  •  Medication reminders programmed into mobiles or watches or the Epilepsy Ireland app
  •  Letter of seizure freedom (for car hire) - driving laws vary
  •  Flotation devices and a bright coloured swim cap
  • Up to date vaccinations if needed – discuss with doctor in advance

Air travel for children and adults with special needs

If you are travelling by air with children and adults who may be anxious, or who have special needs, some airports have booklets with pictures explaining the air travel step by step from check in to lift off.

Managing tonic clonic seizures on planes

In addition to general advice around managing first-aid for seizures, the following steps can be taken:

  • Passengers in surrounding seats should be moved where possible to leave space around the person
  • Armrests should be raised
  •  Protect the head with pillows, blankets or rolled up coats
  • Place nothing in the mouth
  • Let the seizure run its course
  • Note the length of time the seizure lasts. Some people may carry emergency medication to stop the seizure and those accompanying them need to know how to use it.
  • Lone travellers need to inform the crew in advance if they have epilepsy and carry ID with their first aid details on it.
  • When a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, or longer than normal for the person, or more seizures follow without recovery in between, this is a medical emergency. The cabin crew need to know in case a diversion is needed. If a person is injured or has another medical condition they may need medical attention.
  • After the seizure allow the person lie across seats on their side in the recovery position to facilitate their breathing. If the person has vomited during or after the seizure, take special care. They should not be lifted up or moved onto their back, the recovery position is best

Managing tonic clonic seizures on buses and trains

In addition to general advice around managing first-aid for seizures, the following steps can be taken:

  • Passengers in surrounding seats should be moved if possible to leave space around the person
  • Armrests should be raised
  • Protect the head with pillows, blankets or rolled up coats 29 STEPS Programme for parents of children with epilepsy
  • Place nothing in the mouth
  • Let the seizure run its course
  • Monitor the length of time the seizure lasts. Some people may carry emergency medication to stop the seizure and those with them need to know how to use it.
  • Lone travellers: wear ID or carry cards with first aid details
  •  When a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, or longer than is normal for the person, or more seizures follow in a cluster without recovery in between this is a medical emergency. The bus driver or rail staff need to know in case an emergency stop is needed. If a person is injured or has another complicating medical condition they may require medical assessment.
  • After the seizure allow the person lie across seats on one side in the recovery position to facilitate their breathing. If the person has vomited during or after the seizure take special care. They should not be lifted up or moved onto their back, the recovery position is best. 

Tips to reduce risks of heat related seizures:

  • Keep in the shade as much as possible
  • Keep well hydrated but avoid taking energy drinks with caffeine or other stimulant drinks. Your pharmacist can advise on re-hydration solutions if you need them
  • If glare is a trigger for photosensitive seizures wear wraparound shades with polarised lenses and a wide brimmed hat to give shade
  • Be careful around water and water based activities. Seek medical advice if you are not sure if an activity is safe
  • During holidays it’s easy for regular routines to slip – try to keep to regular medication schedules even if routine alters
  • Paths and tarmacadam can get very hot and could cause burn injuries for someone in a seizure. Using a towel or picnic rug to ease under the head or bare skin when placing someone in the recovery position will help reduce the risk. However, moving the person is not recommended unless they are in immediate danger
  • Make sure to use suncream and aftersun lotion if needed. Sunburn could lead to sleep loss which can trigger seizures
  • If you find it difficult to get to sleep in the warm weather make sure the room is well ventilated, reduce bedding and if you still can’t sleep speak to your GP
  • Alcohol is a trigger for seizures and combined with heat might be more problematic so be aware of how much drink
  • Some people on medications such as Lamictal may find their skin more sensitive to the effects of sunlight and may need to take care or use a higher factor sunscreen. This effect can happen with medications for other conditions too. Your pharmacist can advise if any type of medication that you are on would be likely to increase your sensitivity to sunlight.