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International Purple Day – Raising awareness of Epilepsy around the globe

You may be wondering what the colour purple has got to do with epilepsy. Well the answer is the lavender flower as it is often related to isolation and loneliness that people suffering from the condition often feel. Wearing the colour purple on the 26th March 2015 will unite the world in the quest to raise awareness of this serious medical condition.

According to the Epilepsy Society half a million people in the UK or to break it down 1 in 100 people have epilepsy, which is a common serious neurological condition where there is a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.

There are in fact around 40 different types of seizures and each person with epilepsy may encounter one or a combination of different types. A seizure happens when there is a sudden electrical burst of activity and this activity causes a temporary disruption to the way the normal circuits of the brain work. These circuits can become mixed up and the temporary disruption to the brains activities causes the person to have a seizure.

In reality there are so many different types of seizures no two people will experience the same type of seizure, therefore seizures become unique to the person. Epilepsy has many possible causes but because of its complexity, the underlying causes may not be found.

There are three main epileptic groups;

Symptomatic – when there is no known cause. It may be from a head injury, infection, stroke or even a tumour.

Idiopathic – when it is due to a genetic tendency or due to a change in the persons genes before they are born.

Cryptogenic – when the cause of the seizures has not been found despite investigations.

My daughter suffers from nocturnal epilepsy and her seizures are usually between 1am-3am but of course seizures can happen at any time of day or night. The main triggers include bad sleeping pattern, stress, exposure to flashing lights, alcohol and forgetting to take medication. Some people may remember their seizure and others will have no memory of it at all depending on the type of seizure they have had. Although there is no known cure, avoiding triggers is said to help.

You may think it is easy to avoid triggers, however for many people they feel helpless and frustrated in trying to avoid or minimise the risk of seizures. This frustration is heightened when travelling away from home as epilepsy can be unpredictable and despite your best efforts to reduce the risk of having a seizure, sometimes it isn’t always possible.

Of course when you are in the comfort of your own home it is easy to control your environment and the things you do each day. However this isn’t always possible when you are on holiday and extra precautions have to be taken.

Depending on where you travel to you may experience jet lag, extreme temperatures, loud and unexpected noises and changes to your eating pattern. All of these things can contribute to a trigger which could result in a seizure.

Just such a thing happened to my daughter three years ago when holidaying in Greece. On the second night she had a seizure because of a hot and humid evening, tiredness from travelling and too much excitement during the day on the beach. Luckily for us we were able to manage the effects of the seizure without medical assistance however we may not be so lucky next time.

We understand there are so many things you need to take into consideration when travelling with a medical condition so it is always worth taking some precautions before you go, such as buying specialist epilepsy travel insurance.

If you have already booked your holiday you will want to know you are covered for pre-paid holiday costs, in case you need to cancel your trip because of your epilepsy. Also, no one likes to think something will happen to them when away from home. However, should you be unfortunate to have a seizure on holiday which requires emergency medical assistance, you will want to have the peace of mind your travel insurance will cover you, for any associated medical costs you have to pay.

Free Spirit can provide you and your travelling companions with the cover you need (terms and conditions apply, of course!). You can do this either online or if you prefer to call our dedicated UK medical screening team on 0800 170 7704 and discuss your insurance needs, that’s ok too. We will ask you some questions about your health and the health of any travelling companions, to make sure you get the best cover for you all.

You can find more useful advice and information about travelling with epilepsy in the Travellers Handbook for People with Epilepsy.