In June I took my first trip abroad with my sister. I was so, SO excited. Although I was excited and I was counting down the days, as the day got closer, the more anxious I became with all the ‘What ifs’. I couldn’t stop thinking about all these scenarios, and I was incredibly nervous about the flight…which is funny because last July I did a wing walk where I was on the outside of a plane!
Anyway, I decided I wanted to share a few of the most important bits (to me) with you-and maybe you could learn some things if you, too, haven’t been abroad before.
Having epilepsy does not usually prevent people from traveling by air, but if your seizures are triggered by tiredness, dehydration, excitement or anxiety, I advise making sure you tell the person you are traveling with, even if it does bother you when it comes to opening up about your worries. Obviously my Sister is aware because my family has been on this Epilepsy journey with me since 2006, but a lot of people don’t talk about their condition with family, friends, or the general public.
Before you go, Epilepsy Society advise that you check with the airline company you’ll be traveling with about access to medical services. Most cabin crew are trained in advanced first aid which includes how to cope if a passenger experiences a seizure on board.
If your seizures are triggered by stress (like mine), then you need to focus on minimizing stress levels. Flying can be stressful, especially if it is your first time, as you have to travel to the airport. We went to Gatwick from our hometown, which was a good few hours. I usually struggle to get to sleep or to sleep through the night when I am anxious, but I have recently started meditation before bed and it helps so much. I do it all the time now even if I am not anxious.
I advise that you learn some relaxation techniques and practice them earlier in the day so you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself before bedtime. When we relax, our heart rate slows down, breathing becomes slower and deeper, our blood pressure drops or stabilizes and our muscles relax. This all contributes to a good nights rest.
Do some research on meditation for yourself to find what you want to try, and practice it even when you don’t think you need it.
Not only did we have an early start, we also had the struggle of finding our way around the huge airport. It is advised that you arrive at the airport in plenty of time, and this can help keep stress to a minimum. I know it can be boring when you’re hanging around, but make the most out of all the shops and the food you will be surrounded by!
I took 2 weeks worth of medication with me for my one week holiday. You need to make sure you take extra too in case your medicine is lost or stolen, or you are delayed in getting home. You never know what might happen.
I have two medi-packs thanks to my friend Tori Standing. You can get them here www.medpac.co.uk and they are one of the best things I own with regards to my Epilepsy. They are a great way to keep your medication safe and in their original packaging when going through customs. I kept one in my hand luggage with one weeks worth of medication, and another in my suitcase with the extra weeks worth.
If you need extra medicine to cover the time you are away, speak to your Doctor. They are usually able to write you a prescription for enough medicine to cover the time you are away.
Ensure you’re insured!
My good friend Faye told me about finding insurance for me and advised me to get a European Health Card.
The European Health Insurance Card entitles UK residents to free or reduced cost emergency medical treatment in other European countries plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The EHIC is free and can be obtained through your local post office or online. I know I have a few readers from UK residents so if you didn’t know about that, I hope it helps.
Insurance-wise, it is vital no matter which countries you are visiting. Make sure you provide your insurance company with as much information as possible about your Epilepsy and the type, frequency and severity of your seizures. This will affect the premium on your policy and the cost will rise, but it will also give you peace of mind that you will be covered if necessary. I went through Epilepsy Action for my insurance, they work with Insurancewith to offer a travel insurance policy for people with epilepsy, which includes cover for epilepsy related incidents.
My last medical tip for you is to wear medical jewelry. You can get some pretty and fashionable bracelets if you’re worried about what you look like. I personally have a red bracelet that simply says ‘Epileptic’ in bold writing, and I carry emergency contact details with me as well as a Tap2Tag bracelet sent to me by Tori Standing. When I am with my family I don’t worry as much because they know everything they need to. Make sure you have details with you like an ID card.
Remember: Just be yourself and have FUN!
Disclosure: This blogger did not receive any compensation for mentioning the products above.
25 yr old monthly columnist on Living Well with Epilepsy. Full time worker of NHS England.
Emily’s Perspective is a snapshot of what life is like living with Epilepsy. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy at the age of 10.
Based in UK.