The busy holiday travel season is upon us, bringing millions of Americans to the roads and skies, along with delays, flat tires and other travel snags.
Indeed, traveling can be stressful -- and particularly so for children with a complex medical condition like epilepsy.
But, the good news is that taking a few precautions beforehand can help smooth the process for these young jet-setters.
Here are five must do’s when traveling with a child who has epilepsy:
1) Do some advanced planning.
Call the airline to explain your needs, ask what assistance they can provide, and inquire about their rules for carry-on medicines.
Develop a packet with phone numbers for the child’s pediatrician, neurologist and pharmacist, as well as an emergency family contact who is familiar with your child’s medical history.
Like with all children, pre-packed snacks, toys and activities can be a lifesaver on a long trip with a child with epilepsy.
2) Organize your child’s medicine.
Fill and pick up prescriptions two to three weeks before the trip begins to ensure an adequate supply. Inquire with your insurance company if it will provide advances doses, if necessary.
Carry two supplies of medicine: one in a carry-on bag and the other in checked luggage. The medicine Diastat should be carried on. Also bring along a full list of your child’s medications and doses.
3) Prepare for an emergency.
Ask your doctor to prepare and sign an emergency care plan, which includes the doses of emergency medications calculated for the child’s weight. Bring this on the trip.
The child should wear a medical I.D. bracelet or necklace indicating he or she has epilepsy and listing any allergies.
Travel companions should know first aid, what to do during a seizure, and how to describe the seizure.
4) Plan ahead if your child has a vagal nerve stimulator or follows a ketogenic diet.
If flying, bring the registration card to the airport and ask for the child to be manually searched at security. This will avoid setting off the screening device.
Have more than enough meals available during travel just in case of delays. Pack them in an insulated carrier with cooling packs, and request a hotel room with a refrigerator for proper storage at your destination. Remember that a doctor’s letter may be required to bring food/liquids outside of the country.
5) Take a few more precautions at the destination.
- Call ahead to restaurants and attractions and ask for advance seating.
- Locate and get phone numbers for a nearby pharmacy and hospital.
- Just in case, assemble a hospital bag with clothes, money, your emergency care plan and your notes about your child’s care.