Airports and Needles


(Kimberly) #1

Hi, I am flying from Pennsylvania to California in a week and wanted to know what I should do to get through security without a hitch with all of my needles, insulin, etc. I do not have a pump, instead I use syringes and pens along with my cgm and glucometer.

Do I have to take out any of these supplies and put them in a separate bin (like you do with laptops)? Do I have to inform anyone of all of my materials? I was planning on placing everything in separate plastic baggies. Are there any best practices to avoid being held up?

Other questions:

When I’m on the plane will my circulation get worse?

Should I inform anyone on the flight about my glucogon? I am new to Diabetes and I don’t think anything that bad will happen but I want to be cautious.


(Bill) #2

Kimberly,

I don’t have much time this morning so I will have to be very brief.

I have been wearing a pump for many years now. When I approach security at the airport I inform the first security official in the line that I have diabetes, wear a pump and have other sharps in my carry-on bag. I then ask what they need me to do. I sometimes get a full pat-down in a separate area, sometimes get a “wanding” in front of “god and everybody,” but always have to put my carry on luggage on the conveyor. It’s really okay if your vial of insulin goes through the machine. But some TSA officials will allow you to carry it through security in your hand.

Make sure prescription items have a prescription label on the box/bag.

Believe it or not, TSA employees at different airports do things differently. So, I just approach security lines with a flexible and “laid-back” attitude and “go with their flow.” Do as they instruct and you’ll be fine. But you’ll look a little “rumpled” after the process is over - wear casual clothes if you can. I have had to “almost” undress a couple of times; once when I was wearing a suit with a vest.

Don’t, I repeat, DO NOT put your diabetes supplies in your checked luggage. I did that many, many years ago and ended up in San Diego trying to find an emergency clinic to get a prescription for UltraLente insulin. Put ALL of your diabetes supplies in your carry-on luggage.

Make sure your glucose meter is accessible (put it in your purse). Test your blood glucose level as you need to during the flight - who cares what other people think. If anyone gets nervous (thinking you are about to set off a bomb) just look at them, smile, and say, “I have diabetes and have to watch my blood sugar level pretty closely.” That will satisfy them. And they may then begin to tell you about their cousin, or brother, or other family member who has T2. Just let them talk and “tend to the business at hand.”

If you want to, tell the flight attendant that you have diabetes and will be checking your blood glucose level during the flight. That may help you feel more comfortable when you pull out your meter and stick yourself. But do use an alcohol swab during the process. That will make others feel more comfortable with what you’re doing.

Stand up periodically. If you need to, stand in the aisle. You don’t want to stay in a seated position for more than 50 minutes at a time. Get up, move around as you can.

After several years all of this will become “old hat” to you. But for now, do what you need to to reassure yourself that you are okay. That will ease some of the stress.

Good luck!

Bill


(Dennis J. Dacey, PwD) #3

Hi Kimberly @kimberlyelaine, in addition to what Bill wrote, I’ll add that you should visit the TSA website and print out and carry with your supplies the TSA guideline that allows people with TypeOne Diabetes to carry medical devices and additional liquids for treating insulin reaction / hypoglycemia; on occasion, I’ve had to show TSA what is in their own manual.
As Bill says, tell the first agent you see that you have diabetes and that you are carrying “medically necessary” [the term used in the applicable regulation] equipment and supplies. I usually have three 6 oz. juice boxes in my carry-on, the maximum ‘normal’ limit is one 3 oz.

Have a productive and safe trip.


#4

You can also request a medical necessity letter from your endocrinologist - out of all the times I’ve flown, I was questioned once about my glucose meter in my carry on and showed them the letter and there was no issue after that.

You really should not have issues if you explain you have diabetes, but I would get a letter from your MD just in case.


(bsteingard) #5

Hi again, @kimberlyelaine!
Most of the time I just take my insulin (in its frio pack) and glucagon out of my bag to go through the x-ray. I’ve never done anything special with my syringes or lancets or anything. I do try to have a copy of the prescription labels somewhere handy (if not on the medical supplies), but no one’s every questioned the validity of my prescriptions. I carry a letter from my endocrinologist that says that I’m diabetic and take insulin, but I’ve never needed that, either. The only time anyone’s ever raised an eyebrow at the little vials of liquid was when I was flying out of Washington, D.C… I just explained that I’m diabetic and and everything was fine.

The biggest problem I have is food. I bring a lot of snacks with me when I travel because I worry about low blood sugars a lot, and often that all has to be removed and inspected (https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2018/03/27/tsa-might-ask-remove-food-carryon-bags/460221002/). Most of the time they just open up my bag and take a look at the contents. One time all of my snacks got checked for explosives. So if you want to avoid extra time in security I’d advise taking all your food out and putting that in its own bin, too. If your bag does get searched they’ll ask if you have any sharps or dangerous materials. I tell them that I’m diabetic and have syringes but that they’re all contained and shouldn’t be loose or uncapped. So far everyone’s been satisfied with that answer.

I second the advice about packing everything in your carry-on bag. Do not let them separate your from your medical supplies. Do not risk your insulin freezing in the cargo hold.

I’ve never bothered to explain to the people sitting next to me what I’m doing with the blood and needles and such. I used to do that with strangers in the dining hall when I first started college and it just made things even more awkward. If anyone asks, I answer, but otherwise I just do what I need to do. I don’t really care about funny looks and I’ve never been accused of trying to blow up the plane. As for low blood sugars, I’m not sure the flight attendants can legally administer glucagon, but if it makes you feel safer to tell them about it, go for it. In my experience that conversation usually makes people nervous and then they treat me like I’m made of glass, but maybe you’ll meet a flight attendant who knows what T1D is.


(Christina) #6

I have been through this many times worth the airport. Just make sure all of your supplies have a prescription label visible and they will not give you any trouble.


(K) #7

Are there any best practices to avoid being held up?
Keep any metal in the separate dish, keep any liquids over 3 oz. in separate pouch and put in separate tray. IMHO I never inform anybody of my diabetes unless they are doing a search of my bags after going through a scanner or after I go through a full body scan machine. Also you are just asking for a longer experience. Small airports will have the least trained agents and will have to involve a supervisor. Keep in mind, I never use any cooling packs for my insulin, I haven’t carried glucagon for 40 years. I travel with a pump, needles for emergency injections and insulin.

Your questions:

Do I have to take out any of these supplies and put them in a separate bin (like you do with laptops)?

No, but I would keep all your sharps and insulin together in a little pouch in your carry-on.

Do I have to inform anyone of all of my materials?
No, unless you are selected for a random or flag for hand search of your bags. They will ask if their is anything in your bags that could harm them. Tell them you have diabetic supplies and sharps and please put on new sterile gloves if they are going to touch.

When I’m on the plane will my circulation get worse?
Likely, lookup the exercises you can do for prevention of deep vein thrombosis. Early symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include swelling and tightness in the leg.

Should I inform anyone on the flight about my glucogon?
I wouldn’t unless you are feeling and have verified a serious low blood sugar. Use the flight attendant call button.


(Kimberly) #8

Hi Bill,

Everything went well. Your advice made me laugh because it is so true especially the part where everyone has a T2 story since everyone has a T2 relative or friend. During my flight everyone saw me studying and I must have been on a flight with a lot of kind people because the family behind me offered me their box of brownies and the flight attendant wanted to give me a whole handful of cookies. I honestly have never been offered so many free sweets in my life. I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. They wouldn’t accept no for an answer until I explained to them that I have T1 and they immediately recoiled in guilt. I felt kinda bad making them feel guilty and frustrated because I really wanted those brownies.

TSA has been good to me so far and hasn’t made me go through a whole pat down. Maybe I shouldn’t jinx myself. I made sure to keep all my stuff on hand in my carryon and lined up quickly to make sure I had space to store my things before they started making people check in carryons (not really an option for us).

Thank you for your advice and kind words.

Best wishes,

Kim


(Kimberly) #9

I made sure to do just what you said and things went well. The only thing they made me do was open up my juice boxes for testing but I was able to go to the nearest coffee shop and pour the opened boxes into a new cup with a lid.

Thank you!
Kim


(Kimberly) #10

They checked my orange juice for explosives but I was able to pour them into another container after. It has been more convenient for me to carry gummies instead for lows. My go to candies are the sugared Trolli Octopi. No issues with those since they aren’t liquid. The TSA agent felt really bad opening them and explained that she “got it” and that she understood we need it but they have to do what they have to do. That was something that I also am still learning to get used–when people visibly feel guilty of my condition. She definitely gave me the impression that she felt bad for me. I’ve definitely learned to keep things to a need to know basis because I hate when people want to treat me like glass. I want to tell people about my T1 disease because 1) my diagnosis is still so weird and new to me and 2) everyone confuses T1 versus T2 (I want to explode whenever anyone suggests a diet change will cure me or asks me what I did to myself), but at the same time I try to keep things positive so they don’t think I’m going to pass out at any minute when I talk about glucagon.


(Kimberly) #11

I told everyone about all my supplies and they let me through without a hassle. The important thing for me was notifying them of my cgm on my arm since it pops up on the body scan. The second time I flew I told the agent and they let me go through the metal detector instead. Thank you for the advice on the circulation issue. My legs were swelling a lot during my first month or two after my diagnosis.


(bsteingard) #12

The guilt thing is definitely weird. I still don’t really know how to handle it. Especially when people tell me they’re sorry. I have no idea how to respond to that. Instinct is to say it’s ok but… it’s not, really, is it? Not that it’s ever the other person’s fault. I’m just not ok.

I try to educate as much as possible when people confuse T1 and T2. Especially when they imply that I did something wrong. T2 diabetics don’t deserve that stigma, either, in my opinion. Sure there are those who don’t bother to take care of themselves, but there are a ton who work very hard to eat well and lose weight and remain diabetic anyway.


#13

I have travelled a lot and all over the world. Before I had a pump I would pack all my supplies in a small black case and keep it in my carry-on. I never tell anyone about it and have only been stopped once, when I packed an ice pack to keep the insulin cold. They stopped me but I said I have diabetes and it’s to keep my insulin chilled and they let me through. Now that I have a pump I take it out of my pocket and disconnect it and pop it into my carry-on while I’m in line, or I just leave it connected, take it out of my pocket, and tell the person “I’m connected to it”. Usually they tell me to just hold it and I go through the scanner, occasionally I get a pat down. But, I’m a white woman so it’s pretty easy for me to get through security in general. I haven’t told the flight attendants about my glucagon, but that is a good idea to do. I hadn’t thought to do that but I’m going to now. Safety first!


(Andy) #14

I just recently traveled overseas for the first time as a T1D.

All I can say is no two TSA agents do it the same way. They were all very polite but it ran the gamut of being passed thru, wanded, patted down, and a full on interrogation.

The European security agents were a bit more handsy than the Americans.

In Rome, I stood on a riser and watched as the TSA guard did a complete (and I mean waaaay complete) pat down. I thought that would be the end of it but it wasn’t. I was instructed to lift my shirt to expose my CGM . The guy must have been new on the job or something. He very politely put his finger on the senser and pushed it, like an elevator button.
Not sure what he was trying to accomplish. Guess he thought it might be a detonator button? Maybe he mistook me for Poppin’ Fresh?
Since I didn’t explode or giggle, he let me pass thru.