As exciting as it might sound, flying with diabetes can be very stressful to some of us. But, millions of people with diabetes travel by plane every month, and we can guarantee that none of them has had any serious problems.
We all feel like diabetes is an added physical and emotional luggage to lug along on our travels. But the earlier and the better we plan our holidays, the lighter this luggage will be! And that’s exactly why we’ve dedicated this article to revealing a series of useful tips for flying with diabetes supplies.
We’re not going into details as to why you should carry a diabetes travel letter when flying with diabetes here. If you want more detailed information, please refer to our article specially dedicated to the subject.
Should you carry a diabetes travel letter signed by your doctor, you should not have any problems passing through airport security with your diabetic supplies. Insulin pens, vials, cartridges, insulin pumps, blood glucose meters, continuous glucose monitoring sensors, needles, syringes, diabetes tablets, lancets, and any other diabetic supplies, are all ALLOWED to pass through TSA airport security system.
But to be completely safe, you do need to have a diabetes travel letter from your doctor specifying that you are a diabetic patient and listing all of your diabetes supplies.
To make things easier for you, as well as for your doctor, we’ve prepared this ready-to-print diabetes travel letter template.
All you need to do is download it for free, print it, and ask your doctor to fill it out. It comes with a notice sheet for your doctor to understand what that document exactly is.
Flying with insulin is a stressful adventure. Have I packed enough supplies for my trip duration? Am I gonna be allowed to take it with me on the airplane? Is my insulin going to stay cool during my travel? And so on… But rest assured that traveling with insulin is no problem at all. There should not be any trouble if you comply with these few following rules.
You can fly with insulin. In vials, pens or catridges, insulin is allowed on board. And it is allowed through airport security. Needles used to inject insulin are also allowed. Once again, airport security staff may ask you to show a medical certificate (get your diabetes travel letter template).
It is more than advisable to take all of your insulin in you carry-on on the plane with you. Due to air travel pressure and hazardous temperature conditions, your insulin could suffer when traveling in your checked baggage.
If you’re wearing an insulin pump on you, it’s SAFE for you to pass through the regular arch metal detector. But it’s NOT ok to pass through the new 360 full body scanners. According to several insulin pump manufacturers, the pumps have not yet been tested with such scanners.
If the airport staff demands that you pass through a 360-full body scanner, simply explain that you’re wearing a medical device and request a regular pat down search instead. In that case, the security inspector might also want to swipe your insulin pump for explosive detection, which is ok. You should not have any problem with that procedure. But if you think the officer is denying your rights, immediately ask for the security control officer in charge to come.
If you’re carrying a back-up insulin pump in your hand bags, take it out before it goes through the X-ray machines, and ask for it to be hand-checked.
Again you might have to show a medical certificate. Download our diabetes travel letter template above, and ask your doctor to fill it in (it has a special section for your special case!).
If you’re traveling with insulin for more than a month, or if the outside temperature is really high, you’ll need to keep it cool. Every traveler with diabetes has his own favourite insulin travel cooler system. If you don’t have yours yet, and you’re wondering how to keep insulin cold while traveling, here are some of our best suggestions:
Your insulin travel cooler system can go through airport security. According to TSA: “Accessories required to keep medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols cool are permitted through the screening checkpoint and may be subject to additional screening.” That means that insulin travel coolers such as Frio bags, Medi fridge, Medicool insulin protector, and others are ok.
If you use ice packs to keep your insulin cool, know that, yes, they are allowed through security, as they are solids! And if you use your own cooling gels, liquids or aerosols, they are allowed, even though they’re liquids.
If you’re wearing or carrying a blood glucose sensor such as FreeStyle Libre, Dexcom G4 Platinum, Medtronic Enlite Sensor, or any other CGM devices, you have to know that they SHOULD NOT go through X-ray machines nor 360 full body scanners. They risk being deactivated and becoming useless.
THAT MEANS: the back-up glucose sensors that you carry in your hand bag need to be taken out of your bag before it goes through the X-ray machine. Ask airport security staff to hand-check them.
AND: if you are wearing a glucose sensor ON your body, you should NOT be scanned by the new 360 full body scanners. Request a regular pat down search instead.
Don’t worry though, the airport security staff is seeing dozens of diabetes supplies each single day. You should not experience any difficulties. But you could be asked to provide a medical certificate stating that your specific diabetes device cannot go through X-ray nor full 360 body scanning. Download our diabetes travel letter template above and ask your doctor to fill it in (it has a special section for your special case!).
The glucose sensor you’re wearing ON you CAN pass through the regular arch metal detector.
It’s a question that often comes back. You CAN carry fruit juice through airport security checks. If it is expressively stated as a medical need in case of hypoglycemia on your diabetes travel letter, you can take fruit juice, or any other fast-acting sugar liquid, through airport security.
To read more about the specific TSA requirements, visit TSA website page on Special Procedures for People with Diabetes.
Before flying with diabetes, should you have any more doubts about what you can take through airport security, do not hesitate to contact your departure airport’s referent authority. Here are a few useful phone numbers to save you some time:
USA – TSA Cares Helpline: (855) 787-2227
UK – London Heathrow Airport Security: 0844 335 1801
Now that you’ve gone through airport security with all of your diabetes supplies, you’re ready to board! And we’ve prepared a whole article about controlling your blood sugars levels while up in the air!