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Mastering TSA Guidelines: Essential Tips for Traveling with Medical Supplies

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November 14, 2023

Traveling, whether in the United States or abroad, can be an exciting and fun experience. Careful planning can ensure that you successfully manage your medical needs throughout your journey when you visit family or tour a new country. People of all ages depend on medication at some point in their lives. Access to daily medication on-the-go is essential for many individuals with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure. With increased security restrictions at many airports, it’s important to understand TSA guidelines. Domestic and international airports have their own regulations and we’ll cover general guidelines for both. Equipped with this knowledge, you can save yourself time and extra hassle when traveling.

And it’s not only prescription medication in pill or liquid form that you have to plan for. What if you’re a diabetic who relies on needles and syringes to deliver insulin? Or maybe you have sleep apnea and must travel with a CPAP machine. Even wearing contact lenses requires taking liquid solutions with you when you travel. These are all important requirements that you should be considering as part of your travel planning.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the entity that determines what items can accompany you on flights coming into or leaving the United States. Navigating TSA restrictions can be challenging depending on what sort of health and wellness products you require. The following guidelines can help you better prepare for your trip and avoid possible TSA issues at the airport.

Traveling with Prescription Drugs in the United States

According to TSA guidelines, it’s perfectly acceptable to travel with your prescription medications per the following guidelines:

  • If your medication is in pill form, you don’t need to show or announce your medications to a TSA officer when you arrive. You can bring pills or other solid forms of medication in any quantity. However, keep in mind that the TSA will screen them.
  • If your prescription medication is in liquid form you can have it in carry-on luggage but you must present it to a TSA officer. Alternatively, you may notify them that you have this medication with you. The standard amount limit on most liquids is 3.4 ounces but this limit does not apply to liquid medication. You may carry more than 3.4 ounces of liquid medication. Also, it is not  necessary to put your prescription liquids in a zip-top bag. However, medically required liquids will have additional screening that could include opening the container.
  • TSA doesn’t require that you have your medication in a prescription bottle. This makes it easier if you use a pill organizer to manage their daily prescriptions. HonestMed offers a wide array of pill organizers that are ideal for travel. You should note, however, that some states may have different requirements regarding traveling with prescription drugs. States including Texas, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia and New York, require that your medication be in prescription bottles. Alternatively, you may have a note verifying your prescription from your healthcare provider.
  • You can travel with your medication in your checked or carry-on baggage. Yet, TSA highly recommends that you transport it in your carry-on bag. This will assure that you have your medication readily available at all times. It’s also better in case something happens to delay your checked luggage.
  • While your carry-on items are typically screened by X-ray, you may request a visual inspection by TSA if you don’t want your medication to undergo an X-ray.
  • Heart patients who depend on nitroglycerin pills or spray have permission to carry this medication with them at all times. In fact, TSA has never prohibited these critically-required prescriptions.

TSA Information about Medical Supplies and Over-the-counter Drugs

In addition to prescription medication, many people depend on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines or supplies. The following guidelines can help you avoid delays in the TSA line at the airport when traveling domestically:

TSA tips for Traveling with diabetic supplies

Wearing a glucose monitor and carrying insulin and supplies can be frustrating if you’re unfamiliar with TSA rules. Here are some tips:

  1. Notify a TSA officer that you have diabetic supplies with you as soon as you get to the checkpoint.
  2. If you have a device such as a glucose monitor or insulin pump or any other device attached to your body, notify the officer. Tell them where it is located before they begin the screening process. If you have a TSA notification card, present it before screening. Although the card is not a requirement, it can help you discreetly inform TSA about your situation.
  3. TSA uses X-ray and other technology to screen passengers. However, if you have a device on your body and you don’t want to go through the X-ray process, you can request a pat-down instead.
  4. As a diabetic, you may need to take more than 3.4 ounces of liquid. For example, fruit juice is commonly in containers with more than 8 ounces. You can take this in your carry-on bag, but let the TSA officer know, so they can examine the liquid.
  5. If you are carrying necessary needles and syringes to administer medication, inform a TSA attendant when you arrive at the checkpoint so they can visually inspect your supplies.

TSA tips for traveling with essential non-prescription items

This also requires planning. You may rely on any number of liquid or gel-based medications including contact lens solution, eye drops, cough syrup and cold medication, or spray, gel and capsule pain relievers, etc. You may take these items with you in your carry-on bag – even liquid OTC products that are more than 3.4 ounces. However, it’s a good idea to make sure they are in their original packaging.

TSA Rules Regarding Medically Necessary Devices

Many people depend on devices such as nebulizers and CPAP machines on a daily basis. Here are some TSA guidelines regarding these medically-necessary machines:

  • Nebulizers, which are devices that turn liquid medication for asthma or COPD into a mist that can be inhaled, are allowed in your carry-on baggage. CPAPs, BiPAPS and APAPs, are common items that treat various forms of sleep apnea. These items are also permissible but with minor conditions. The machine must be removed from its case and X-rayed before you can proceed to your flight. You may enclose the machine in a clear plastic bag before sending it to the X-ray examination. However, the filter, masks and hose accessories can remain in the case.
  • The liquid medication used in nebulizers is permissible because it’s just like any liquid medication and is not subject to the 3.4-ounce rule.
  • Lithium or lithium ion batteries that are often used in these medical devices and should be transported in your carry-on baggage. Generally, any consumer devices that have batteries can be carried in either your carry-on or checked luggage.
  • Oxygen tanks are not permitted on airplanes per the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). While some airlines may supply oxygen access during flights if needed, they are not required to and many don’t. However, portable oxygen concentrators such Inogen One and Sequal Eclipse are allowed.

International Travel Guidelines for Medication and Medical Devices

The TSA rules for traveling within the United States are pretty uniform although a few states have different guidelines regarding whether your medication needs to be in a prescription bottle.

Traveling to a destination outside the U.S. is a totally different matter. Many common medications that we take for granted in the U.S., such as Adderall, Benadryl, birth control and even protein powder are illegal in some countries. The following are some guidelines and links to help you avoid difficulty and enjoy your international travels:

  • Research the laws regarding medications in the country to which you are traveling.  A good start is to visit the U.S. Embassy website for your destination. Breaking the laws regarding restricted medications in countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Malaysia – to name a few – can result in imprisonment and in the case of a drug offense, even the death penalty.
  • Most countries allow you to carry a 30-day supply of your medication. However, if you rely on medication that is not legal in the country you’re going to, ask your physician if there is a substitute that is legal.  Another good place to check for what various countries allow is the website for the International Narcotics Control Board. They offer information on what is allowable in those countries that provide such information.
  • Know what vaccines or medications may be required for the country you’re visiting before and during your stay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website provides information regarding the requirements for most countries.
  • Prepare a travel health kit that contains your medication including both prescription and OTC products that may be hard to find at your destination. It should also include any medication you might need as a result of your travels. For instance, some countries have a high incidence of malaria and if you’re visiting such a country, you may want to take preventive medication with you. Be sure both your prescription drugs and OTC products are in their original containers and that you have enough for the duration of your stay.
  • If you rely on needles and syringes to deliver your medication, be sure you understand the rules of your destination country regarding these items. Visit your healthcare provider before you leave and ask them for a letter of explanation that you can present if you need to.

Remember to Have Fun and Exciting Travels!

Whatever destination you choose, HonestMed.com is here to provide the products and accessories you need to stay healthy and strong during your journey. Whether it’s tools to organize and manage your prescriptions, diabetic supplies, CPAP/BPAP supplies, nebulizer machines, or OTC medicines, HonestMed offers the availability and pricing you can depend on.

Learn more by speaking to an HonestMed Care Specialist at (833) 933-2323. We’re here to provide you with product knowledge, support, and expertise to ensure you get the right products for your unique needs and budget.

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