More than 2.5 million domestic and international passengers take flight every day, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Many of those have type 2 diabetes. If you’re one of them, you must know what you can carry on board in the event of protracted delays or unexpected layovers, which might result in low blood sugar.
When dealing with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers, the most important thing is to be candid about your situation, says Cheri Ridenour, R.N., at RiverStone Health in Billings, Montana. “Inform airport security that you have diabetes and have brought your medical supplies,” she says. “Pack them in carry-on baggage, not checked luggage. Place them in plastic bags so screeners can easily recognize them. Keep medications and insulin in original packaging to prove the prescriptions are your own.”
Additionally, know that if you have any questions, assistance is available at the helpline TSA Cares, says Michael S. McCarthy, regional public affairs manager and spokesman for the TSA. Travelers with disabilities, medical conditions, and other special circumstances should call (855) 787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to departure with any questions about screening policies and procedures.
The bottom line, McCarthy says, is that the TSA does not prohibit any medically necessary liquids or devices. “But passengers should understand that all items must be screened to be allowed in the cabin of the aircraft. TSA officers may test liquids, gels, or aerosols for explosives or concealed prohibited items. If officers are unable to use X-ray to clear these items, they may ask to open the container and transfer the content to a separate empty container or dispose of a small quantity of the content, if feasible.” Inform the TSA officer if you do not want your liquid medication to be screened by X-ray or opened. Additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid and you will undergo additional screening procedures such as a pat-down.
The TSA employs passenger-support specialists, McCarthy says. Travelers requiring special accommodations or concerned about the screening process may ask a TSA officer or supervisor for on-the-spot assistance from such a specialist.
Here, McCarthy outlines TSA screening procedures and best passenger practices, emphasizing that clear communication and planning ahead are critical.
Medications in pill or other solid form must undergo security screening. It is recommended that medication be clearly labeled to facilitate the screening process. Check with state laws regarding prescription medication labels.
You are responsible for displaying, handling, and repacking the medication when screening is required. Medication can undergo a visual or X-ray screening and may be tested for traces of explosives.
Inform the TSA Officer
Inform the TSA officer that you have medically necessary liquids and/or medications and separate them from other belongings before screening begins. Also declare accessories associated with your liquid medication such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes. Labeling these items can help facilitate the screening process.
3-1-1 Liquids Rule Exemption
You may bring medically necessary liquids, medications, and creams in excess of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carry-on bag. Remove them from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You are not required to place your liquid medication in a plastic zip-top bag. If a liquid, gel, or aerosol declared as medically necessary seems suspicious, then it may require additional screening, or may not be allowed on the plane.
Ice packs, freezer packs, gel packs, and other accessories that keep medically necessary items cool may be presented at the screening checkpoint in a frozen or partially-frozen state. All items, including supplies associated with medically necessary liquids such as IV bags, pumps, and syringes must be screened before they will be permitted into the secure area of the airport.
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Cindy Uken is a veteran, award-winning health writer living in Palm Springs. She has worked at newspapers in California, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and at USA Today. Cindy received a 2013-2014 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, chosen as one of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, inducted into the Yankton (S.D.) High School Fine Arts Hall of Fame, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her work on Montana’s suicide rate, and named one of Gannett’s Top Ten Supervisors of the Year. Follow Cindy on Twitter @CindyUken, on Facebook and at CindyUken.com.