Do I have a higher risk to get the coronavirus if I suffer from epilepsy?
There is no evidence of increased risk of coronavirus infection in people with epilepsy compared to the general population. The risk is increased in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
Do people with epilepsy have a weakened immune system?
There is no evidence that people with epilepsy have a weakened immune system, therefore they should not be considered ‘immunocompromised’ or to have an ‘immune deficiency’. Obviously, there are individual differences, e.g. some people with epilepsy might have a weakened immune system due to co-existing other health conditions and associated immunosuppressive treatment.
Does treatment with antiepileptic medications increased the risk of coronavirus infection?
There is no evidence of increased risk of coronavirus infection in people taking antiepileptic medications. Therefore, it is important to keep taking your epilepsy medicine as usual throughout any illness.
What should I do to avoid the infection?
There are a number of measures that might help in reducing the risk of infection. These include:
- avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- hand hygiene (wash hands with soap and water, or use alcohol hand gel, often, especially after using public transport and at any time before eating)
- cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or a sleeve; try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are unclean.
- consider wearing a face mask or covering if you are in enclosed spaces with others, like a public transport or a supermarket.
Try to keep healthy by following a nutritious diet and taking gentle exercise. Keep your home well ventilated by keeping the window open.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
Symptoms of coronavirus can include a new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia). If you’ve developed symptoms (however mild) in the last 7 days, stay at home for 7 days from the start of your symptoms and arrange to be tested. Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital. You should remain at home until you get the result of the test, and then follow the advice you will be given based on the result.
When to get help
Only phone 111 if:
- your symptoms worsen during home isolation, especially if you’re in a high or extremely high-risk group
- breathlessness develops or worsens, particularly if you’re in a high or extremely high-risk group
- your symptoms haven’t improved in 7 days
If you have a medical emergency, phone 999 and tell them you have coronavirus symptoms.
Do the people I live with need to take any action?
If you live with other people and have symptoms, they’ll need to stay at home for 14 days from the start of your symptoms even if they don’t have symptoms themselves.
If they develop symptoms within the 14 days, they need to stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms started and arrange to be tested. They should do this even if it takes them over the 14-day isolation period.
Your whole household should follow NHSInform’s stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.
Keep up to date
Please follow the advice from:
- The Scottish Government
- NHS inform which is updated regularly.
- Public Health England (PHE) which is updated daily
Most cold medicines that you might consider for symptom relief (typically paracetamol to control fever or muscle aches) are fine. But take advice before using products containing diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl). Just check the label before purchasing any products. If in doubt, check with the epilepsy team.
Will people with epilepsy be more severely affected by coronavirus?
For most people, coronavirus causes mild symptoms, and they recover quickly after a few days Currently there is no information to say that people with epilepsy are more severely affected than people without health conditions.
If I catch coronavirus could it trigger a seizure?
There is no information about coronavirus triggering seizures in people with epilepsy. However, infections, fever (particularly in children), sleep deprivation and in general being unwell can trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy.
If I catch coronavirus, do I need any specific treatment?
As described above, many of your flu symptoms can be reduced with over the counter medications. The doctors involved in treating you might recommend antivirals, antibiotics or other specific treatment. Occasionally these may interact with your anti-epileptics, reducing their effectiveness or causing side effects. Always let know doctors treating you that you are taking anti-epileptic medications and ensure you know the dose and type of tablets you use. It is often helpful to keep a list of the medications you take to show doctors and pharmacists to help then ensure there are no interactions with your tables.
Will the situation with coronavirus lead to shortages of my epilepsy medicine?
The Scottish and UK Governments are working with drug companies to minimise any impact of coronavirus on drug supplies. Drug companies have already built up stockpiles of medicines in preparation for Brexit and have now been asked to maintain this level of stockpiling. This should mean medicines will continue to be available, even if there are temporary disruptions to the supply chain. Do not try to stockpile your medication in case you have to self-isolate. This could cause shortages of medications and put others at risk of a seizure. It is best to carry on as normal.
If I have to self-isolate how will I get my medicines?
The NHS is currently advising people who may have been exposed to coronavirus to self-isolate. Just in case you need to do this, you may wish to think now about how you would get your medicines.
This could be getting a friend or family member to collect your prescriptions for you. Or you could make arrangements for your pharmacy to deliver your medicines to your home. You may wish to check with them now if they offer this service, and how to sign up to it. Most prescriptions are now signed, sent and processed electronically. Make sure you are registered for online services through your GP. This will enable you to book, check or cancel appointments online and order repeat prescriptions. Take your prescription to your pharmacy in plenty of time – up to seven days before you need your medication. This will allow your pharmacist to call other pharmacies or suppliers if there are any delays in getting your medication.