If you have epilepsy or look after someone with epilepsy, you may be concerned about what the recent coronavirus outbreak means for you.
Will having epilepsy put me more at risk of getting infected with the coronavirus?
No. There is no evidence to say that epilepsy makes you more likely to catch this virus. This is similar to catching the flu. You are not any more likely to get the flu because of your epilepsy.
This is because epilepsy does not compromise your immune system. The government has advised that those at higher risk of being infected with this virus are older people, and those with underlying or long term conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, or asthma.
What if I get infected with the coronavirus?
If you have been infected with the virus, it does not automatically mean you will show severe symptoms.
Most people will have very mild or no symptoms at all and will recover fairly quickly. It is important that you continue to take your anti-epileptic medication exactly as prescribed every day, even if you feel unwell.
If you are worried about symptoms, call NHS 111. Do not go directly to your GP or hospital.
Will this trigger more seizures?
If you show symptoms such as a high fever, cough, or difficulty breathing you might be at risk of increased seizures.
Feeling unwell generally and running a temperature can be a trigger for seizures. Coughing may keep you up at night, and we know that a lack of sleep can be a trigger for seizures too.
If you experience severe symptoms and this is affecting your seizure control, seek advice over the telephone from NHS24 on 111 or your epilepsy specialist nurse.
How can I protect myself from the coronavirus?
There are some simple but very effective measures you can put in place to minimise your risk of catching the virus:
- Wash your hands regularly, particularly after coughing and sneezing, before you prepare food or eat, after toilet use, after handling waste, when caring for someone who is sick, and when your hands are visibly dirty. Using soap and hot water following good handwashing hygiene will kill off any virus. When you are out and about, hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol can be effective to keep your hands clean.
- Maintain social distancing, ie keep at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This is to avoid breathing in any droplets which may contain the virus.
Avoid close contact with people who are unwell and avoid using their personal items such as their mobile phone. Do not share eating or drinking utensils.
- Practice good hygiene. This means cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Use your elbow if you do not have a tissue. Bin used tissues immediately. Wash your hands frequently as mentioned above.
- Never touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Also, clean or disinfect objects and surfaces you often touch, such as your mobile phone, keyboard, door handles or desk.
Will the coronavirus lead to medication shortages?
The Scottish Government and UK Department of Health and Social Care have instructed drug companies to continue stockpiling medication.
Drug companies already have stockpiles of medications which they were instructed to do so in preparation for Brexit.
Should there be a disruption in supply chains because of the virus, these stockpiles will tie over drug companies which should minimise the risk of drug shortages.
Please note, drug shortages can happen for a number of reasons. This could, for example, be due to difficulties with the manufacturing process. Or because one of the ingredients is currently not available.
If you have difficulty getting your specific anti-epileptic drugs, contact your GP or epilepsy specialist nurse by telephone.
As a precaution, if your GP practice allows this, don’t wait until you have almost run out of your medication. Put in your repeat prescription a couple of weeks before it is due. This will tie you over in case your pharmacist needs time to get your medication.
What if I can’t go out to get my prescription?
You may want to think about how you would get your medication now. This is in case you need to self-isolate or are too ill.
You could get a family member or friend to pick up your prescription and medication and drop this on your doorstep.
If you do not have someone to pick up your medication, you could ask a local pharmacy if they do a pickup and delivery service for you. If you have difficulty getting your medication, contact NHS24 on 111.
There is more general information about the corona virus, how it affects travellers and measures the government have put in place here.
Information is also updated at 2pm daily on the UK government website.