If you, or a member of your family, have epilepsy (whether or not you experience seizures) you may wonder what special risks you face during warm weather and while traveling. The first and most important thing to do is Talk to Your Doctor! He or she knows your special circumstances and needs and is in the best position to offer advice.
Swimming, fishing, or other water sports fun summer activities. If you or your family member with a seizure disorder wants to participate in water related sports, ask the doctor if seizures are controlled enough to allow for activities in or near the water. For some people, seizures are triggered by flickering or flashing light. If you are one of these individuals, just being near water may increase the risk of a seizure. Polarized sunglasses may decrease this type of risk in some instances.
If you or your family member gets approval from a doctor to swim, never go in the water alone. Children and those adults who are not strong swimmers should wear an approved life vest that fits well and chose one that supports the head above the water. Even strong swimmers need assistance if a seizure occurs in the water. Swimming with someone who knows first aid for seizures is always best.
Getting too hot from exposure to the sun or too tired from activities may present another risk for people who take medication for seizure control. If you recognize these symptoms (too hot, too tired), provide shade and cooling measures. Some people taking seizure medication may be extra sensitive to sun exposure. Talk to your doctor about this risk and the precautions that should be taken.
Are you planning a summer vacation that involves travel? A little advance planning will make the trip safer and smoother. Patricia Osborne Shafer, RN writes in EpilepsyUSA that there are a few things to take into consideration when you decide how you will travel. Talk to your doctor first.
- Consider the type and frequency of previously experienced seizures as you plan your travel. For adults whose seizures are frequent or involve confusion or loss of consciousness, consider traveling with a companion.
- If you are traveling alone, you might want to carry a letter from your doctor. It should state what response should be provided if you do have a seizure and other information that your doctor feels is important. Have a list of your current medication(s) with the letter.
- If you don’t already have one, obtain a medical alert bracelet or necklace. They may be purchased online and at a variety of drug stores. Wearing this type of identification is a good idea all the time, not just when you are traveling.
- Pack medications in two places. If you check your luggage with the airline or other carrier (e.g., train, bus line), be sure to have two or three days supply in your carry-on bag since luggage may be lost, stolen, or misplaced. Being without your medication for even a short period of time could be serious. Carry-on medications should be in containers that have been labeled by your pharmacist. Ask for some small bottles with proper labels before your trip.
- If you have a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) device, be sure to have the registration card that you were given at the time it was implanted. Don’t be surprised if airport security gives you a thorough check.
- Enjoy your trip!