Our Helpline & Information Officer, Uschi Stickroth looks at travelling abroad whilst living with epilepsy.
It’s the time of year when many people will be planning their summer holidays abroad.
With Covid-19 restrictions finally lifting, there are people desperate for some summer sun after two years of restrictions and staying at home.
We want to make it easy for people living with epilepsy to prepare for a trip abroad so you can stay safe and enjoy your well-earned break.
Below is a checklist to help you get the most out of your summer holiday.
Get your Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)
As the UK has now left the European Union (EU), different arrangements apply when you travel to EU countries.
A Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) covers you for reduced cost, sometimes free, state healthcare of the EU country you are travelling in.
Please note that each EU country may have a different healthcare system. In some countries, you may have to pay all or at least contribute towards the cost of emergency treatment.
You can use this card for medical emergencies but also for pre-existing conditions which may require some treatment while you are travelling in the EU.
This is good news for people with epilepsy as it can sometimes be more expensive to obtain travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition like epilepsy.
You can apply for a GHIC card free on the NHS (UK) website here. Beware commercial websites which may try to charge you a fee for applying for GHIC.
Please note, that the UK government recommends that you always take out adequate travel insurance to cover costs not covered by GHIC such as the cost of rescue, repatriation, or if you are on a cruise.
Take out travel insurance
Always take out private travel insurance even if the country you are travelling to is covered by your GHIC or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). More info about an EHIC can be found here.
Some travel insurance companies require you to have a GHIC/EHIC card, always check the small print before you sign up to travel insurance.
You may have to approach some specialist travel insurance companies which specialise in covering pre-existing conditions such as epilepsy.
Epilepsy Scotland has teamed up with Medical Travel Compared – a travel insurance comparison site which brings together many travel insurance companies that specialise in pre-existing medical conditions on one independent site.
For every policy sold via our dedicated link, the company will make a donation to our charity.
Don’t forget your anti-epileptic drugs
And don’t forget to take extra medication in case of an unexpected delay.
You may not get the same kind of brand of your medication or even the same medication in every country. In addition, many travel insurances will not cover you for the loss of medication.
Many people carry their medication in their hand luggage to reduce the risk of medicine getting lost, or at least split it between hand and hold luggage. Keep all your medications in their original containers.
You can flatten the boxes to save on space but keep the labelled boxes as they are proof that these medications are prescribed to you. You can also take a copy of your repeat prescription listing the medications you take.
Current airline security means that you can only carry liquid medication in your hand luggage if it’s in bottles of no more than 100mls per item, which fit in a small one litre sealable clear bag.
Any liquid medicines over 100mls must be carried separately, and you need to carry a prescription or a letter from your doctor with it.
Check if you need a vaccination
Most vaccines can be safely taken by people with epilepsy including COVID-19 vaccines.
If you are travelling to a country that requires you to take anti-malaria medication, seek further medical advice, as some anti-malaria drugs are not suitable for people with epilepsy.
Carry medical identification
This is of course not compulsory, but it can help to have an ID-style card on you or wear medical identification jewellery such as a bracelet or necklace.
This might help first responders or paramedics if you have a seizure and lets them know what medications you take.
We can also post to you one of our free ‘I have epilepsy’ cards. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a private message on social media.
For more information, on travelling abroad and epilepsy, please read our factsheet by clicking here.