Flying With Diabetes Supplies: Diabetes at the Airport

Diabetes supplies, airport security, TSA: Know your rights!

Diabetes: Traveling and airports

As exciting as it might sound, flying with diabetes can be very stressful for 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 severe 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 precisely why we’ve dedicated this article to revealing a series of valuable tips for flying with diabetes supplies.  

Table of Contents

Diabetes Travel Letter Template

Why you need a diabetes travel letter to fly with diabetes supplies

We’re not going into detail about why you should carry a diabetes travel letter when flying with diabetes here. If you want more detailed information, please refer to our article 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 other diabetic supplies, are all ALLOWED to pass through the TSA airport security system. But to be completely safe, you need to have a diabetes travel letter from your doctor specifying that you are a diabetic patient and listing all of your diabetes supplies.

Download your free diabetes letter template

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.
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Flying with Insulin Supplies:
TSA and airport security rules

Flying with insulin is a stressful adventure. Have I packed enough supplies for my trip duration? Am I allowed to take it with me on the airplane? Is my insulin going to stay calm 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.

Should you pack your insulin in your checked baggage or carry-on?

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.

Insulin Pumps at airport security checks

If you’re wearing an insulin pump, it’s safe 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, 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 denies your rights, immediately ask for the security control officer in charge to come.

If you’re carrying a backup insulin pump in your handbags, take it out before it goes through the X-ray machines and asks 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 particular case!).

Insulin Travel Coolers at airport security checks

If you’re traveling with insulin for more than a month, or if the outside temperature is high, you’ll need to keep it cool. Every traveler with diabetes has their favorite 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.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring Devices:
at airport security check

Suppose you’re wearing or carrying a blood glucose sensor such as FreeStyle Libre, Dexcom G4 Platinum, Medtronic Enlite Sensor, or other CGM device. In that case, you have to know that they SHOULD NOT go through X-ray machines or 360 full-body scanners. They risk being deactivated and becoming useless.

THAT MEANS: the backup glucose sensors you carry in your handbag must 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; the airport security staff sees dozens of diabetes supplies daily. It would be best if you did not experience any difficulties. But you could be asked to provide a medical certificate stating that your specific diabetes device cannot undergo an X-ray or complete 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 particular case!).

The glucose sensor you’re wearing ON you CAN pass through the regular arch metal detector.

Fruit Juices and other Diabetes Belongings
at airport security check

It’s a question that often comes back. You CAN carry fruit juice through airport security checks. Suppose it is expressively stated as a medical need in your diabetes travel letter in case of hypoglycemia. In that case, 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

Diabetes on the Plane

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 sugar levels while in the air!

6 Responses

  1. Can my local physician sign my form please?? Which he is willing to do as my doctor’s surgery has said it takes 14 days. My flight is 5 day’s before

  2. I found this article to be very helpful. I am an insulin dependent diabetic and just recent got a diabetes sensor. I DID NOT know or consider the factors stated in this article. I am taking advantage of the doctor template. Thank you. I have ofetentimes wanted to bring juice with me but had to dump it out cause it was more than 2-4 oz and have to buy once I’m pass security which can get pricey, so knowing I can bring it with me in an unopened container helps.
    I have a feeling I will be using this for more restrictive events, like concerts that don’t allow you to bring outside food & beverage. Knowing your rights and what you can and cannot do is powerful. Thank you

    1. Hi Deborah! I’m glad the article and diabetes medical certificate template helped you. I had actually not thought about it myself, but you’re right: it can totally be used for more events like concerts! Knowing your rights is essential when living with diabetes! Thank you for your comment!

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