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Traveling with diabetes, insulin pumps

Many of you will be flying for the holidays. You may be wondering how Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations at airports affect you, particularly if you use an insulin pump.

Diabetes supplies

First, it's a good idea to arrive at the airport with ample time prior to your flight departure, particularly during peak travel periods. Let the security officer know that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies with you. Once screened, the following diabetes-related supplies and equipment — including insulin pumps — are allowed through the airport checkpoint:

  • Insulin and insulin loaded dispensing products — vials or box of individual vials, jet injectors, biojectors, epipens, infusers and preloaded syringes
  • Unused syringes when accompanied by insulin or other injectable medication
  • Lancets, blood glucose meters, blood glucose meter test strips, alcohol swabs and meter-testing solutions
  • Insulin pumps and insulin pump supplies — cleaning agents, batteries, plastic tubing, infusion kits, catheters and needles (insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin)
  • A glucagon emergency kit
  • Urine ketone test strips
  • Used syringes when transported in a Sharps disposal container or another similar hard-surface container
  • Sharps disposal containers or similar hard-surface disposal containers for storing used syringes and test strips

Insulin pumps and full-body scanners

You may also be wondering if an insulin pump can go through the full-body scanner. We recommend that you check with your insulin pump company. And chances are that the insulin pump may trigger a secondary pat down.

I recently read an article on airport security and insulin pumps or sensors in the November 11, 2012 issue of Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics. The authors state that "new technologies are constantly being developed for diabetes management" and that "it is impossible to know in advance all of the possible ramifications relating to patient care and safety." Apparently, when an insulin pump or sensor is passed through a full-body scanner or X-ray scanner, there may be a risk of electromagnetic malfunction.

Insulin pump manufacturers typically recommend that you remove your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitoring device before going through the body scanner. However, don't send your devices through the X-ray machine as an alternative.

It's safest to check with your insulin pump or sensor manufacturer for the latest information before flying. Consider calling the manufacturer's customer service line or checking their website. For example:

  • Medtronic's website includes a chart of devices and equipment that may cause interference with your insulin pump or sensor and guidelines for what to do when encountering such equipment.
  • Animas's website currently recommends removing the insulin pump prior to using a body scanner. As an alternative, Animas suggests asking for a "walk through" or "pat down" inspection.
  • OmniPod currently states on their website that their PDM (patient diabetes manager) and Pods can safely pass through airport X-ray machines.

Tips for a smooth travel experience

Whenever possible, bring prescription labels for medications and medical devices. Hopefully, this will make the security process go more smoothly. Pack your medications in a separate, clear bag and keep that bag in your carry-on luggage. Don't forget to include a quick-acting source of glucose to treat low blood sugar as well as an easy-to-carry snack such as a nutrition bar. And always carry or wear a form of medical identification that includes contact information for your doctor. Finally, pack extra supplies.

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