Safe Air Travel with Diabetes

By American Diabetes Association

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, many people across the country will begin planning their summer vacations (if not already). However, for people living with diabetes, there is often a lot more preparation involved, from packing extra medications and supplies to securing doctors’ notes. And what about your insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor and liquids—can they even go through airport screening?

We’ve gathered a few tips that will help you plan accordingly and enjoy your trip, especially if your itinerary includes air travel.

First, don’t be alarmed about TSA’s airport screening policy change to require some passengers to undergo a full-body scan, announced in December 2015. Generally, passengers, including those who have personal medical devices, will still have the option to opt out of a full-body scan in favor of a pat-down.

If the airport you are traveling out of has Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) available, you can request to use it instead of a metal detector. You also have a right to have a full pat-down screening done in private and with a witness of your choice. We have more advice for handling your screening concerns.

Rest assured, you are able to bring your diabetes medications and supplies through airport security. These include insulin and insulin-loaded dispensing products, glucagon emergency kits, blood glucose meters and continuous blood glucose monitors. See our full list of what you can bring with you.

Chances are, you’ll have a positive experience at the airport. Here are some first-hand accounts of people living with diabetes—our Facebook fans:

  • Liquid Rules: “Recently, both Kansas City and Las Vegas airports allowed me to keep two bottles of Boost for low [blood sugar].” – Kendra J. People with diabetes are allowed to exceed the limit on liquids with medications such as insulin and glucagon, and fast-acting sources of carbohydrate, such as juice.
  • Point it Out: “I recently had the most pleasurable experience in the Orlando International Airport. Pre checked my bag at the curb and was given TSA pre check. When I got to the line I told the lady I wore an insulin pump and a CGM. She looked at me with a smile took me by the hand and whispered, ‘I’m a type 1, I wear one too.’ All I had to do was touch my equipment and she swiped my hands! All my supplies including juice boxes, skittles, meds, etc. went right thru! Feeling blessed!” – Diane V.
  • Make a Choice: “I just flew a couple weeks ago and asked for the pat down, having both a pump, and CGM. They swabbed everything in my med pack, asked no questions about a [loose] vial or multiple boxed vials. I had to handle my pump and CGM, and then they swabbed my hands.” – Robin H. Remember, you are entitled to a pat-down if you prefer, but your insulin pump may be subject to additional screening.

Want more tips? Turn to Diabetes Forecast magazine for ways to ensure your lifesaving diabetes medications and supplies make it through airport security.

If you have questions before traveling or need help, contact the TSA Cares helpline at (855) 787-2227.

And if you’ve experienced difficulties going through airport security screening checkpoints and need help from our legal advocates, call us at (800) DIABETES.


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