My blog last month provided tips for people with epilepsy to stay safe in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic (Tips: Your Epilepsy in Our New Covid-19world). The Epilepsy Society of the United Kingdom offers helpful tips for keeping people with epilepsy safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. This month I share their tips to help keep people who have epilepsy out of clinics and hospitals where contracting the virus can be a larger threat.
· People with epilepsy are at no greater risk of contracting Covid-19 than anyone else unless you have an additional risk factor such as old age, immobility, respiratory disease, severe heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension or are immunosuppressed. These same risk factors also apply to the general population without epilepsy.
· Wash your hands frequently and do not touch your face.
· Isolation from and avoiding contact with symptomatic individuals during this pandemic is paramount to staying healthy.
· Wear a mask when others are nearby and keep at least 6 feet away from another person.
· People who have epilepsy are generally experienced with their own condition and know what triggers their seizures, so do what you can to minimize this risk. Triggers may include: skipping/forgetting to take anti-seizure medication, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, recreational drugs and alcohol, etc. If you know flashing lights and computer games set your seizures off, avoid them as well.
· Make sure you have an adequate supply of medications on-hand to avoid or at least limit contact with people in pharmacies and clinics where risk of exposure to the Covid-19 infection is greater. Familiarize yourself with obtaining medications through online pharmacies, where feasible.
· To make compliance with medication easier, use pillboxes to increase accuracy and regularity of medication dosages during the day by using pillboxes or cell- phone alarms or phone apps.
· During this health emergency, consultations with your caregiver should be available by telehealth internet mechanisms and telephone. Establish this communication system before they are needed in a panic-mode. Ask your health team in what situation you should go to the clinic or emergency department before you head out, to avoid unnecessary exposure or travel.
· Your companion/caregiver needs to be included in your discussions with your neurologist/physician/nurse to determine what to do if you have multiple seizures over a short time-period, or if you have a prolonged convulsion lasting over 5 minutes. Also make plans what to do/should be done in a similar situation if your companions/care givers at times are not available. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to wear a Medi-alert bracelets/necklaces in case you ever need emergency care and are unable to communicate or provide information about your epilepsy to medical personnel or first responders.
· To minimize the risk of injury during a seizure, only use the front burner when you are cooking. (I have seen severe burns in patients seizing and falling on flames/hot coils/hot pots while cooking on a front burner.) If possible, try to avoid taking a bath or shower when no one else is at home and keep the bathroom door open for easier access by a companion. Shower drownings can occur, too, if you fall face-down and block the drain.
· Avoid holding a baby over bathwater when bathing the child or holding the baby while cooking. If you have a seizure at these times, your baby is at risk, too.
· Helplines are available through local epilepsy societies and support groups for people who would benefit from emotional support, such as for anxiety and depression. Epilepsy-service-dogs can be extremely supportive, too. (See my blogs #109, August 26, 2019; blog #72, July 26, 2016 and blog #9, December 14, 2011 that discuss service dogs at www.LanceFogan.com.)
Stay safe! The above suggestions can help you do that.
Lance Fogan, M.D. is Clinical Professor of Neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “DINGS” is his first novel. It is a mother’s dramatic story that teaches epilepsy, now available in eBook, audiobook and soft cover editions.