This information is relevant to people who live in the UK.
In this section
This information is for you if you have epilepsy and are planning on travelling. It has things for you to consider before you go. It also has information about flying.
1. Check that you can get enough epilepsy medicine to last more than the length of your trip.
It is a good idea to take more medicine than you will need, in case your medicine is lost or stolen, or you are delayed in getting home.
There are NHS restrictions on prescribing medicine for someone who is going to be out of the UK for long periods. Your family doctor is only allowed to give you a prescription for enough medicine to last you up to three months.
Epilepsy Action has more information about how to get supplies of your epilepsy medicines when you are outside the UK.
2. Think about how you will be able to store your epilepsy medicine correctly while away.
Some epilepsy medicines need to be kept in a cool dry place. If you do not store your epilepsy medicines in the correct way, they may not work as well as they should. This would put you at risk of having a seizure.
3. Find out if there is a time difference in the place that you are going to visit.
You might find that your usual time for taking your epilepsy medicine would fall at a difficult time, such as the middle of the night. In this case, you may be able to gradually change the times that you take your medicine, in the weeks before you travel. Your family doctor or epilepsy specialist will be able to give you more advice about this.
4. Get a letter from your doctor about any medicines that you will be taking out of the UK with you.
This is advice from the Home Office. The letter should confirm your name, where you are travelling to, the names and doses of the medicines and the amount you will be carrying. This is especially important if you take any of the following medicines: clobazam, clonazepam, diazepam, phenobarbital/ phenobarbitone. The letter would be useful if you need to see a doctor while you are away. It could also be helpful when carrying medicines through customs. Your doctor may charge you for this letter.
5. Be aware that most vaccinations are safe for people with epilepsy or who have a history of epilepsy.
However, if you need to take anti-malaria medication for your trip, be aware that this can cause problems for some people with epilepsy.
Public Health England have published a 2014 guide to malaria prevention for travellers from the UK. Here is the information from the guide for people with epilepsy.
Doxycycline or atovaquone/proguanil
These can both be used by people with epilepsy.
Doxycycline has a half-life which may be reduced by phenytoin, carbamazepine and barbiturates. So in theory its dose should be increased for patients taking these medicines. However there is currently no evidence that this is necessary.
Chloroquine and mefloquine
These are both unsuitable for people with epilepsy.
6. If you will be travelling abroad, make sure that you get adequate travel insurance.
The cost of medical care and treatment can be very expensive outside the UK. Make sure that your insurance policy would cover any incidents that are related to your epilepsy.
Epilepsy Action works with Insurancewith to offer a quality travel insurance policy for people with epilepsy, which includes cover for epilepsy related incidents. As with any travel insurance, cover is not guaranteed, because the insurance company will look at your level of risk on an individual basis.
Tel: 0845 619 6142
7. If you will be travelling within the European Economic Area, apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card.
This will let you get healthcare for free, or at a reduced cost, if you urgently need it while you are away. The EHIC does not cover everything that travel insurance does, so it is important that you have both. EHIC cards are free of charge. You can get an application form from the Post Office or contact the EHIC application service.
Tel: 0300 3301350.
8. If you will be flying, contact the airline before you travel.
Some airlines have a policy for people who have had seizures, so check this before you fly.
9. Consider buying some identity jewellery or getting an epilepsy aware card to wear or carry while you are away.
This way people will know what is happening if you have a seizure while you are away. Epilepsy Action has details of companies that supply identity jewellery. We can also send you an epilepsy awareness card, free of charge. Contact Epilepsy Action for more information.
There is no evidence to suggest that flying is harmful for people with epilepsy. Here are some helpful tips.
1. Tell the cabin staff about your epilepsy.
That way, they will know what is happening if you have a seizure, and will be able to help you.
2. Try to get your usual amount of sleep.
Lack of sleep or feeling tired can increase some people’s risk of having a seizure.
3. Set yourself a reminder to take your epilepsy medicines at your usual time.
If you forget to take your epilepsy medicine, this could cause you to have a seizure.
4. Carry a spare supply of your epilepsy medicine in your hand luggage.
This is in case your main luggage is delayed or lost.
It is always advisable to check the hand luggage restrictions with the airport before you travel. At the time of writing, airport security measures mean that you can carry solid forms of your epilepsy medicine in your hand luggage. This includes tablets and capsules. Airport staff will ask you to provide evidence that the medicine is for your epilepsy. You could show them a copy of your prescription, or a doctor’s letter.
You are also allowed to carry up to 100ml of liquids that are not medicines in your hand luggage. If you need to carry liquid medicines, you can take more than 100ml in your hand luggage. However, you will need approval, before you travel, from the airline, and airport you are flying from. You will also be asked to provide evidence of your need for liquid medicines, such as a doctor’s letter or prescription.
Epilepsy Action has information about seizure first aid in French, German and Spanish.
The International Bureau for Epilepsy has published The Traveller’s Handbook for people with epilepsy. This includes first aid instructions and a selection of phrases you may find helpful. Information is available in Arabic, Cantonese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.
Contact the International Bureau for Epilepsy for more information.
There is also a lot of useful infromation about travel and health on the NHS Choices website.
Pay it forward
This resource is freely available as part of Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving life for all those affected by epilepsy.
On average it costs £414 to produce an advice and information page – if you have valued using this resource, please text FUTURE to 70500 to donate £3 towards the cost of our future work. Terms and conditions. Thank you
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Lesley McCoy, Epilepsy Nurse Specialist, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, UK, for reviewing Epilepsy and travel abroad.
Lesley McCoy has no conflict of interest.
This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.
Updated April 2013To be reviewed April 2016