Pilots Reveal 16 Nuances That Make Your Flight Safe
11 Ways to Make Travel Safer if You Have Epilepsy
1. Pack plenty of medication.
If you take epilepsy medication, bring enough to cover your entire trip — plus some extra doses in case you encounter travel delays. Keep your prescriptions in their original containers with the labels clearly visible. Also, to more easily navigate security concerns, ask your doctor for a letter that explains that you have epilepsy and lists the medications you take to control your seizures.
2. Carry your medications with you at all times.
If you’re flying on a plane, don't pack any medications in your checked luggage. "You need to keep your medications on board with you," advises Dr. Sirven. You don't want to risk losing them with your luggage in transit. Your flight could be delayed or, worse, you could be stuck on a plane for hours. "Most airlines have emergency medical kits on board that contain medications for people who have seizures, but you can't guarantee they're fully stocked or well equipped," he says. (Or, for that matter, that they contain anti-seizure medication.)
3. Bring copies of your prescriptions.
Ask your doctor for a copy of your medical records and duplicate prescriptions just in case you need a refill or replacement while you're away. If you're traveling within the United States and use a chain pharmacy, it's not as much of an issue because each store can usually look it up for you on a computer if necessary, Sirven says. If you're traveling out of the country or to a remote location, however, having copies of your prescriptions is an added safety measure.
Bill Glassman, 53, of San Diego, who was diagnosed with epilepsy about 15 years ago, says that whenever he travels to Brazil with his wife to see her family, he always takes along copies of his most recent medical records. "I take them with me in case [a doctor needs] … the latest information about my condition and my treatment."
4. Take your meds on schedule.
Once you reach your destination, continue to take your medications just as you would at home. "It may not be easy when you're in a different time zone, but you're helping your body to adjust to the new place," Sirven says. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about upcoming travel plans. "You can work on timing with your healthcare provider," he adds.
5. Talk to your seatmates.
If you're concerned that you might experience a seizure during air travel, you may want to tell the person sitting next to you or the cabin crew. Let them know how your seizures affect you and how they can assist you should one occur.
"Unfortunately, there's a stigma associated with epilepsy, and people may become frightened when someone is having a seizure," notes Sirven. It's against the law for airlines to prohibit you from boarding a plane because you have epilepsy and could have a seizure. If you have seizures that cause you to behave erratically, you might want to travel with a companion who could tell the other passengers what is happening and reassure them that you'll be okay.
6. Request an aisle seat.
Should you have a seizure, an aisle or bulkhead seat on the plane may be more comfortable and give the people around you more room to move and help you. If you're traveling with a service animal, you most likely will need a bulkhead seat anyway. Be sure to give the airline as much notice as possible so it can comply with your request. Though it's more expensive, says Glassman, flying first or business class and being able to stretch out and rest comfortably can be worth it, especially if it's a long flight.
7. Be selective about your destination.
If you're traveling for business, you probably don't have a choice in where you’re headed. Though if your trip is for pleasure, be sure to consider the climate and accommodations at your destination. Some people with epilepsy are more comfortable in climates similar to home. If you're from the South, you may not want to go north in winter, for instance; and if you're from a colder climate, you may not want to vacation where it will be hot and humid. If bright lights can trigger your seizures, you may want to avoid amusement parks, as well as locations like the Vegas strip or Times Square, which are known for their neon signs and flashing lights.
8. Check your health insurance.
Before leaving home, find out if you will have coverage at your destination, should you need medical attention. Also, find out exactly what you need to do to get added coverage if necessary. "Buying traveler's insurance can be good to do as well," Glassman says. Check out the policy, though, and find out if there are any exclusions before buying, he adds.
9. Wear a medical ID bracelet.
Medical jewelry or an identity card can help alert people to your condition should you have a seizure in a public place. "I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a call from an emergency room from afar about a patient who has had a seizure," Sirven says. Having the bracelet helps save time in an emergency because the emergency personnel will know what's happening to you.
10. Take steps to get a good night’s sleep.
For some, lack of sleep can trigger a seizure. When you travel, it can be difficult to get your usual rest, so it's important to deliberately build rest time into your plans to help minimize your risk for having a seizure. Time your air travel so you arrive at your destination in the afternoon or evening, when it's closer to bedtime, to make the transition easier.
11. Relax and enjoy.
Stress can also trigger a seizure. Pre-planning your trip activities can help alleviate unnecessary stress. So can eating and drinking as you normally would. Don't overdo it, and try to stay calm if plans go awry.
Traveling when you have epilepsy may require some additional planning in order to help prevent a seizure, but if you do your homework, you can still have a safe and enjoyable trip.
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