Epilepsy and coronavirus (COVID-19) – FAQs

2nd April 2020

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been a number of questions from the epilepsy community. Understandably, people want to know if having epilepsy is a factor that means they need to be extra cautious. 

Of course, not everything is known about COVID-19 at this point, however, in this post, we’re going to try and answer some of the most common questions using the information we know at this stage in time. 

Can epilepsy cause a weakened immune system?

People with epilepsy are not known to be “immunocompromised” or “immune deficient”, which means that they have a weakened immune system. Of course, a person with epilepsy can be immunocompromised as a result of another condition. 

Does having epilepsy make someone at higher risk? 

At present, there is no evidence to suggest that people who have epilepsy are at higher risk than anyone else in the general population. Higher risk categories are predominantly focussed on people who have a compromised or a weakened immune system, such as those with diabetes, cancer or chronic lung diseases. If people have other underlying conditions as well as epilepsy, these may put them in the higher risk category. 

Do any antiepileptic medications (AEDs) put you at higher risk of infection? 

There is no evidence or information to suggest that any AED would have an impact on susceptibility to COVID-19. Under no circumstances would we recommend that you stop taking your prescribed medication unless advised to do otherwise by your healthcare professional. 

Could coronavirus (COVID-19) trigger a seizure?

There is no direct link between coronavirus and seizures at present. However, some people are known to have triggers that include fever, high temperatures and sleep deprivation, which are symptoms of COVID-19. Seizures may be more likely, but no more so than other illnesses that have these symptoms. If these symptoms are known to trigger seizures, then we would recommend you take extra precautions to socially isolate. We would also recommend that you contact your GP by phone should you have any of these symptoms. 

How can I avoid the infection? 

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of infection. The main thing is to follow government guidance on social distancing and limit any social contact that isn’t essential. You should also wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water and use alcohol gel if possible to prevent the spread of infection. Although it’s difficult, try to avoid touching your face if you haven’t cleaned your hands, COVID-19 can only be transmitted through the eyes, nose and mouth. 

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you start to experience the symptoms of COVID-19, which are high temperature and a persistent cough, then it is recommended that you self-isolate immediately. This means do not leave the house for at least 14 days, this includes anybody who lives with you. Do not attempt to visit the hospital or a doctor. If symptoms persist then call your GP or NHS 111 for further advice. 

Get more up-to-date guidance from Public Health England (PHE) here. 

National Epilepsy Training can help…

For more information on epilepsy and coronavirus, please call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk