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Making Travel Safer and Easier: Tips for People with Epilepsy and Families07/15/2010
There are several reasons for this. Increased security is producing closer scrutiny of medications carried on flights, more questions regarding implanted vagus nerve stimulators and magnets, and increased concerns about the possibility of having a seizure during a flight.
As a nurse, I have been getting many requests from people with epilepsy for help on these issues and many more. During this holiday season, it is wise for everyone to consider travel plans in advance. Plan time to talk with your doctor or nurse to make your traveling and holidays easier and safer.
Traveling on Airplanes
If there is any question about whether a person should fly or needs a companion, he or she should talk with the doctor, particularly if that person is prone to long seizures or clusters of seizures, going through medication changes or having a significant change in their seizure control. Maybe other forms of travel would be preferable, at least until the seizures improve.
Most people, however, can travel safely by air. It may be helpful to carry a doctor's letter stating that they can travel safely by plane and what the flight crew response should be if a seizure occurs.
Traveling with Meds
It is always smart to carry at least a day's supply with you, in case you get delayed in an airport. Security personnel are understandably concerned about unlabeled liquids or products. Thus, it's advisable to store and carry medicines in properly labeled bottles.
Ask your pharmacist to label empty bottles with your current prescriptions. You can then use these to carry the necessary amount with you instead of taking all your medicine along. If you carry a pillbox, make sure that it is properly labeled as well.
If you are planning a long trip, make sure you talk to your doctor about any changes in your medicine schedule that may be needed. Luckily, there are new medications and longer acting forms of older medicines that can be taken twice a day. This makes traveling across time zones much easier, and reduces the chances of missing a dose.
Traveling with the VNS
Are special considerations needed for travelers who have a vagus nerve stimulator? In light of increased security, people with an implanted VNS have shared some interesting stories with me. During routine searches at airports, some people have been questioned about the bulge under the skin where the generator is placed. Others have found that the increased sensitivity of screening devices have been activated by their VNS.
To avoid being unnecessarily delayed or questioned, I advise people to carry their VNS registration card with them, as well as the patient manual that describes the device. People with a VNS should also ask their doctor or nurse to include information about the device in a letter that they can take with them when they travel. The letter should state that they are okay to travel and explain the use of the magnet (which may be used to start or stop the stimulation).
Traveling with a Plan
They may not recognize certain behaviors as being cause by a seizure. They may just think that a person who is confused during a seizure will become agitated or attack someone. Or in a mistaken attempt to help or detain, they may try to restrain that person. Unfortunately, this reaction will often make someone in the midst of a seizure more confused, agitated or even combative. No one wants this to happen. That's why now, more than ever, we need to educate others about what seizures are, what they are not, how to help, and what not to do.
Education and planning begins at home - by making sure that everyone with epilepsy knows what to do and what to tell others. Begin by going over the following checklist - talk about it with your doctor or nurse so you can be ready when you want to travel.
Have an enjoyable and safe journey!
•Wear a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace
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