Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m flying south this week to meet my family for the holidays and while I’m excited to see them, I am not excited to be flying. Airport security lines always freak me out a little. Did I remember to take off my belt? Do my shoes go on the conveyor belt or in the plastic bin? Will my jewelry set off the metal detectors? Will my insulin pump? Will my continuous glucose monitor sensor be noticed if I get a pat-down? And, of course, am I moving fast enough so the people behind me don’t get annoyed?

I doubt there are any people who actually enjoy airport security screenings, but if you carry or wear diabetes management gadgets or supplies, it can be even more stressful. The American Diabetes Association has been working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to clarify their policies and make sure the rights of people with diabetes are acknowledged during air travel. Do you know your rights? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • If you wear an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitoring device, check with its manufacturer about whether or not it should go through x-ray or other screening machines, including the new full-body scan machines. When you go through the security check at the airport, let the TSA personnel know that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies. This may help avoid any confusion or unnecessary questions.
  • You may use an optional TSA Notification Card Denotes external link. Please see our Linking Policy and Disclaimer of Link Endorsement. to discreetly let TSA personnel know about your diabetes. Simply download and print this wallet-sized card and hand it to the security officer. These cards do not exempt anyone from security screening.
  • Bring some fast-acting glucose with you in case of hypoglycemia. Whether you prefer to use juice, gel or glucose tabs, you should be covered.
  • Bring your doctor’s contact information with you. Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s always good to have it with you, just in case.
  • Always pack extra supplies and snacks, and budget for extra time. Travel schedules, weather predictions and diabetes management can change easily, so make sure you’re prepared.
  • It’s best to bring prescription labels for each medication with you. This is a recommendation, and not a requirement. It may help you move through security a little faster.
  • Pack your medications in a clear plastic bag and place them in your carry-on luggage. Do not combine them in the quart-sized, zip top bag with other, non-medical liquids under 3.4 ounces.
  • Keep your insulin with you. Do not put insulin in checked luggage, as changes in pressure and temperature may damage it. Always inspect your insulin before injecting it and call your doctor if you notice any changes.

You can see more tips and information on the American Diabetes Association’s website. You may also want to visit the TSA’s website with information for travelers with medical conditions Denotes external link. Please see our Linking Policy and Disclaimer of Link Endorsement. as well as some diabetes-specific guidelines Denotes external link. Please see our Linking Policy and Disclaimer of Link Endorsement..

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you believe you have been subject to unfair treatment because of your diabetes, please view the information on the American Diabetes Association’s How to Get Help page.

Complaints about discriminatory treatment by TSA personnel should be directed to TSA’s Office of Civil Rights Denotes external link. Please see our Linking Policy and Disclaimer of Link Endorsement.. You may also call TSA at 1-877-EEO-4TSA.

TSA accepts complaints by mail to:
Transportation Security Administration
Director, Office of Civil Rights
601 South 12th Street – West Tower, TSA-6
Arlington, Virginia 20598
Attn: External Programs Division

If you think you have experienced discriminatory treatment by air carrier personnel (pilots, flight attendants, gate agents or check-in counter personnel), you should contact your air carrier and you may make a complaint with the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD) Denotes external link. Please see our Linking Policy and Disclaimer of Link Endorsement.. You may also call the ACPD at 1-202-366-2220.

Safe travels to all!

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4 Responses to Leaving on a Jet Plane

  1. s a kumar says:

    it would be helpful, if ADA publish a leaflet online specifically for diabetics on key points of this article in terms of dos and donts while travelling by air. i was caught in the snow storm last year in Virginia on interstate 81. as i had packed medication and some snacks i could see thru 14 hours on the road without hassle. Yes, while travelling, we never can anticiapte some events and we should be prepared. nice article this. thanks

  2. Beverly says:

    I am 54 and in March of this year I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I am also scared. Always wondering if I am doing the right thing. It is very scary. My fingers are constantly hurting from testing.

  3. Cindy says:

    I am placing an advisement to Diabetics who wear insulin pumps.

    Wearing your insulin pump through the full body scanners at the airport security check in could damage you insulin pump!! I recently flew for the first time and was told to leave my pump on when going through the scanner. This action damaged the programming of my insulin pump and I soon began to feel ill after the flight. Not knowing there was an issue and being away from home I just dealt with feeling ill, I then went through the scanner again on y return trip. After returning home I progressively got worse and went to the hospital. There I was accused of administering insulin and deleting it from the pump, as a result they threatened to put me in the psych ward for trying to kill myself. After a long battle my pump was taken from me and tested. They found that its programing and calibration was messed up and I was placed in the ICU do to almost dyeing from insulin shock.

    I have been informed by the insulin pump manufacturer that the scanners and x-ray machines are known to cause problems. Unfortunately to late.

    Please for your safety opt out of scanner or remove it and ask it be inspected without x-ray.

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