Type 1 & TSA: What to Know Before Taking Off
5/25/16
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Getting through airport security is hectic and stressful enough as it is, but throwing in Type 1 devices and necessities can take it to a whole new level. For those traveling to and within the United States and Canada, here are some things to know and prepare for before lining up at the airport security checkpoint.

TSA Notification Card

You can download and print this card ahead of time. This can be given to a TSO (Transportation Security Officer) to inform him or her of your medical condition and what supplies you’ll be carrying with you for added discretion (might not have to verbalize it) or to provide more in-depth detail as to what your supplies are. Remember that this isn’t a requirement, but you might find it helpful.

TSA Cares

Contacting TSA Cares and a Passenger Support Specialist who provides on-the-spot assistance is always a good idea. It gives the TSA a “heads up” as to when you will be coming and what your special needs are. Especially if the person with Type 1 is a minor, he or she can ONLY be patted down by a supervisor agent (and if a female, only by a female supervisor). In order to save time, call the TSA Cares USA hotline at 1-855-787-2227 approximately 72 hours prior to the flight to secure supervisor personnel for the check.

Pumps & CGMs

  • It is always acceptable to travel with your insulin pumps and/or continuous glucose monitors!
  • It is a good idea to notify a TSO (Transportation Security Officer) right away that you are wearing a medical device. (You can also cue this by presenting a TSA Notification Card that details your condition and the devices you’ll be carrying.)
  • Type 1 diabetics have the right to keep both devices on their person at all times.
  • Insulin pumps and CGMs should NOT be put through the x-ray machine.
  • It is also NOT recommended that pumps and CGMs undergo the airport body scanner, as most pump and CGM companies have not yet been able to determine whether or not advanced imaging technology will interfere with your devices’ settings.
  • In lieu of a body scanner: ask to walk through the regular metal detector with your device(s) OR ask for a regular pat down by a TSA agent.
  • Anticipate an Explosive Trace Detection (ETD), a swab test for explosive materials where your site is located.
  • Anticipate delays with the inspection of your equipment (even though it’s permissible), so give yourself plenty of extra time! You may save some time by signing up for TSA Pre-Check since you don’t have to remove liquids with pre-approval. (There’s a nominal yearly fee for this.)

Needles, Syringes & Lancets

  • Needles and any other sort of insulin delivery devices are permitted on airplanes.
  • Although not required, carrying a prescription, letter from your doctor or pharmaceutical label for your supplies with you is recommended to potentially speed up the screening process.

Insulin

  • Insulin is always allowed in your carry-on bags in vials, pen form or otherwise.
  • Do NOT put your insulin in checked baggage — always carry it with you, as severe changes in pressure and/or temperature can tamper with insulin.
  • A hand inspection by a TSA agent can be requested if you are not comfortable putting your insulin through the x-ray machine.
  • Freezer packs and other accessories to keep your insulin cool are permitted.
  • After flying, always inspect your insulin before injecting! Discard it or call your doctor if it looks damaged.

Signs of damaged insulin:

  • Your insulin appears cloudy when it is supposed to be clear.
  • Your insulin is supposed to be cloudy, but it has clumps, even after rolling it between your palms.
  • Your insulin looks stringy.
  • Your insulin has changed in color.

Other Supplies

Don’t forget that other diabetes supplies are temperature sensitive and should also be kept in the cabin so as not to be damaged by extreme temperatures in the baggage haul. Temperature regulations should be listed in their product descriptions. Consider these supplies:

  • All Dexcom sensor inserts
  • Ketone sticks
  • Test strips

Glucagon & Quick Sugars

  • Glucagon is permitted in its pharmaceutically labeled container.
  • TSA allows diabetics to bring quick sugar in liquid or gel form for the treatment of hypoglycemia, even if they are greater than 3.4 ounces.
  • Candy, glucose tabs and other sugary foods are always permitted!

Read more on Travel with T1D and Samantha Willner’s A Tale of a Diabetic in Turkey.