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Can you fly with epilepsy? Your safe alternatives to commercial flights

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Can you fly with epilepsy? Your safe alternatives to commercial flights

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Flying with epilepsy can be scary, especially for those who have just been diagnosed with this condition and do not quite know how to manage it. Epilepsy is, in fact, one of the most common neurological disorders in the world. During a seizure or a fit, sudden bursts of electrical activity take place in the brain, causing a wide range of symptoms, such as shaking, convulsing and losing awareness of what is happening around you. Amongst a patient’s main fears is having an attack onboard the plane. What are the risks and consequences of this happening and how to ensure your safety when travelling?

Flying with epilepsy is usually safe for patients especially if they take the necessary precautions beforehand. Nonetheless, there are certain risk factors such as jet lag that can cause a seizure. Thus, it is best to be accompanied by a medical escort or to fly on a chartered medical flight by Medical Repatriation UK. 

Is flying with epilepsy safe? 

Generally, the answer to ‘Can someone with epilepsy fly’ is “Yes.” Flying for epileptic patients is generally low-risk and with the proper precautions and management strategies, flying on a commercial plane is usually not an issue. 

According to the general guidelines by IATA, flying is not a problem if your seizures are usually well-controlled. However, the association recommends that you get medical clearance to fly if you have had a tonic-clonic seizure less than 24 hours before your flight. Moreover, the situation is different for patients with refractory or uncontrolled epilepsy. In these cases, your doctor will have to assess your situation before the flight to determine whether you are fit-to-fly.

patient and doctor

Important note: Most airline companies follow IATA regulations when it comes to allowing epileptic patients on board. 

Precautions to take when flying with epilepsy

Besides getting their doctor’s recommendation, there are certain precautions that you should take when travelling with epilepsy to ensure a safe and smooth journey.

Here are precautions that you should take when travelling with epilepsy: 

Check regulations about your medications

While your medications might be essential during the trip, certain countries have different rules with regards to medicines, even if they are over-the-counter in the UK. Some countries might not allow the drugs while others would require proof that they are being used for medical purposes. Always carry your prescriptions or a doctor’s note with you.

Apply for the GHIC if you are travelling to European countries

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is the equivalent of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It allows those in the UK to access state-provided healthcare in European countries. While a GHIC does not involve any fee, it does not cover all medical charges.

Take travel insurance for epileptic patients

Since the GHIC is restricted to European countries and it does not cover everything, it is important that you take travel insurance covering epileptic treatments abroad. Inform your insurance company about your condition before taking the insurance.

Check your vaccinations and anti-malaria drugs

Before getting vaccinations or drugs before travelling, check whether it might cause a negative reaction or a seizure. For instance, certain anti-malaria drugs are not suitable for epileptic patients.

patient taking medication

Change your medication time in case of a time difference

If there is a significant time difference between your current location and destination, you will have to gradually change your medication time, following the advice or recommendation of your doctor. 

Wear an epilepsy ID

Wearing identity jewellery or an epilepsy ID card will help people around you understand if you are having a seizure and they will be able to help you out.

Travel with someone

It is recommended to travel with someone who is experienced in managing epileptic fits in case you have a seizure on the place. This can be a loved one or a medical escort

Dangers of flying with epilepsy

Epilepsy should be treated like any medical condition. Besides taking the necessary precautions, you should be aware of the certain risks that are associated with travelling for epileptic patients. These are: 

  1. Extreme tiredness: Exhaustion from travelling or jet lag might cause seizures in certain epileptic patients.
  2. Stress: If stress is a trigger factor, you must try relaxation techniques to distract your mind and decrease the likelihood of a seizure. 
  3. Unsafe water: Consumption of contaminated water might cause issues such as vomiting or diarrhoea. Gastric issues will reduce the absorption of your epilepsy medication, which can potentially lead to seizures. 
  4. Medication issues: Not taking your medication on time due to different time zones or forgetting about them completely can be triggering. Decide on a schedule with your doctor and stick to it. 

scheduled plane

Our medical escort solution for patients with epilepsy 

Patients with uncontrolled epilepsy or those with additional medical complications who are afraid of flying on their own can travel with our medical escort on a commercial plane. This is a medical professional that will be alongside the patient and will constantly monitor his condition throughout the flight. He will also assist the patient during the boarding process and will provide reassurance and comfort. 

When choosing the medical escort to accompany the patient, we make sure to select someone that is qualified and experienced in dealing with the specific medical condition of the patient. Consequently, the medical professional accompanying the patient would know how to efficiently provide care to the epileptic patient in case of a seizure or fit on the plane. 

Medical flights for patients with epilepsy 

Patients with epilepsy and other underlying medical conditions or the elderly with epilepsy have to take additional precautions when travelling because of the increased risks. Medical Repatriation UK has air ambulances to ensure safe patient transport over long distances.

These medical flights are equipped with medical equipment and most importantly a doctor and a paramedic. The plane will be prepped to ensure the safety of the patient throughout the flight. As such, the traveller will be constantly taken care of, in case of a medical emergency or even a long-lasting seizure. 

Moreover, medical flights are chartered planes, meaning that there is not the hassle of waiting in line to check in, decreasing the time taken to board the plane and the stress associated with travelling.

ambulance jet

Contact us for an air ambulance or a medical escort 

If you need a medical escort or an air ambulance to or from the UK, get in touch with us. We have agents working across the globe to take care of your request and to organise a customised medical flight for you. Contact us: