Traveling with Medications and Medical Equipment

by Mary Gallagher, RN, MSN, CCRN

May 1, 2018
Health

MEDICATIONS IN PILL or other solid form must undergo security screening at U.S. airports. The Transportation Security Administration recommends medication be clearly labeled to speed up the screening process. Check with state laws regarding prescription medication labels. It is best to keep your medications in their own individual prescription bottles from the pharmacy.

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 you have medically necessary liquids or other medications and separate them from other belongings before screening begins. Also declare accessories connected with the liquid medication, such as freezer bags, IV bags, pumps, syringes and needles. Labeling these items can speed the screening process. Also carry printed prescriptions from your doctor for these supplies.

You may bring medically necessary liquids, medications and creams in excess of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carryon bag. Remove them from your bag and have them screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You are not required to place the liquid medication in a plastic zip-top bag. If a liquid, gel or aerosol that has been declared medically necessary sets off alarms, it may require additional screening and may not be allowed on the plane.

Ice packs, freezer packs, gel packs and other accessories may be shown at the screening checkpoint in a frozen or semifrozen state to keep medically necessary items cool. All items, including supplies associated with medically necessary liquids, such as bags, pumps and syringes, must be screened before they will be permitted into the secure point of the airport.

TSA officers may test the liquids, gels or aerosols for explosives or concealed prohibited items. If officers are unable to use X-ray to clear those items, they may ask to open the container and transfer the contents to a separate empty container or dispose of a small quantity of the contents if possible.

If you have recently undergone a medical procedure involving radioactive materials or have a radioactive implant, inform the TSA officer before the screening process. You can provide the officer with a TSA notification card or other medical documentation from your physician regarding your condition.

You may be screened by advanced imaging technology, a walk-through medical detector or a pat-down if you have recently undergone a medical procedure involving radioactive materials or have a radioactive implant. Consult with your doctor before flying.

Consider applying for TSA PreCheck to speed your security screening process without needing to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. You can apply online and then schedule an appointment at any of 380-plus enrollment centers for a 10-minute, in-person background check. If you are approved for TSA PreCheck, you will undergo screening by technology or a pat-down. TSA officers may swab your hands, mobility aids, equipment or other external devices to test for explosives.

You may encounter screening inconsistencies among U.S. airports. Although the rules are the same everywhere for travelers and TSA enforcement, sometimes the officer does not understand the rules. Cooperate and, if possible, throw the object in question into the trashcan. The important thing is to know the rules and follow them. If challenged by the TSA, understand why and cooperate, for your safety and that of other passengers.

As mentioned in last month’s column, the TSA website at tsa.gov provides a blog discussing advances in security and innovation at airports worldwide, travel tips, a real ID section (as checkpoint ID requirements change) and a disabilities and medical conditions section.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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