Traveling with Injectable Medications

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with MS, and she has to give herself regular injections of medication. She also travels for work regularly, and came to me for help. “How do I travel with these things?” she asked.  “Do I have to take them out of my suitcase at security? Am I even allowed to take them on the plane??” I immediately headed to the TSA website to find out. They have a pretty specific page about medications and how to travel with them. Here is what I found out:

  1. You ARE allowed to take through injectable medication, or medicines with syringes, as well as a sharps container. In fact, the medication does not have to be labeled (which I thought was weird, but oh well).
  2. If it’s okay if they go through the X-ray machine, it’s easiest to just leave them in your suitcase when going through security. Of course, I don’t know the rules about her specific medication. I told her to ask her doctor how X-rays would affect her prescription, because again, this is easiest.
  3. If you don’t want them to go through the X-ray machine, you have to take them out and request visual inspection.  As with everything else, have your bag of medicines ready to hand to the officer at the metal detector.  You may be asked to unpack your medicine bag. If that’s the case, you will be required to handle the unpacking and repacking of your medicines and associated supplies. If they can’t clear them visually, the medications will have to go through the X-ray machine.

It seems like TSA is (surprisingly) making it as easy as possible to travel with various medications. However, I would recommend printing out the information page from the TSA website just in case not all officers are familiar with the guidelines (especially at smaller airports).

Readers, any advice for my friend? Have you ever had to travel with unusual medical supplies?

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Comments

  1. I have to travel with a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea. I haven’t had any problems with the TSA – I’ve had more problems with the airlines, especially outside of the US, because they consider it extra baggage!

  2. I have to travel with injection pens often.

    Check the country you are going to as well as the one you are leaving from. Some medications are not permitted entry into some countries, even over the counter ones. also check the quantities you are travelling with, sometimes there are limits on how much you can travel with.

    Get a letter from your doctor.

    I use a FRIO pack. Just wet and they keep it cool for hours. Check some airlines can supply you with ice if required. You might want to think about a small thermometer.

    I ususally take the meds out of the box, fold it down and pop it in a zip loc bag so the chemist label is clear and doesn’t get soggy.

  3. I just started allergy shots (give them to myself) and will be going away for a couple weeks at the end of the month. Since my allergy vials don’t have your typical rx label on it, does anyone know if I need to ask my doc for a note to bring it through security?

    Thanks in advance

  4. Brian,

    You don’t need a doctor’s note to get your allergy shots through security. I’d put your syringes and vials in the same ziploc baggie and let the officer know when you go through that you have medication for allergies you need to take through.

  5. I have been traveling with an Epinephrine autoinjector for as long as I can remember and never had any issues. I always have one in my carry-on and I’ve never been stopped in the US or abroad.

  6. We travel with various OTC meds for the kids, and just make it a habit to pull the baggie out of the diaper bag. It saves having to wait for them to search the entire bag. We have never had an issue with the larger-than-3oz size though.

    TSA also swabs my wife CPAP pretty much every time. I can understand that, in fact I’m surprised Sylvia doesn’t have that happen considering the size of even a compact CPAP. It does go through x-ray as well. I don’t know that they’d be able to clear it visually since it’s a relatively sealed case.

  7. I have traveled quite a bit since starting to use a CPAP machine a year ago. My ONLY problem is with getting distilled water through security. I even asked a TSA agent yesterday, what can I do about this problem? He suggested I just tell the officers I am diabetic. One, that is not true, and two, I am not sure that will explain why I have unlabeled water in a water bottle. I am kicking myself that I did not save the 1.5 liter rugged and LABELED Aqua Distallata bottle that I bought in Spain last September. Unfortunately, here in the US, the distilled water only seems to be sold in gallon bottles. Even in Spain, I got hassled one time by security with the labeled bottle, the officer told me I needed a Dr’s note, but he’d “let me go this time”. BTW, I have never had a problem with the CPAP machine though. I did get asked to put my short rolling bag in a sizer for the very first time yesterday as well, but when I showed the TSA officer that amongst my other stuff I had my CPAP machine, he backed off though. I love the machine, but hate the added hassle with security.

  8. I travel with epi pens, injectable Enbrel, a nebulizer and assorted other meds. I have always carried a letter from my physician, but haven’t ever been asked for it. Traveling with the Enbrel in a chill pack sometimes gets additional screening, but not much. I honestly have gotten less screening overseas than I do in the US.

  9. As an RN, I also recommend avoiding the x-ray for certain meds – check with your MD. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that even the smallest zap of radiation from x-ray could affect the integrity/potency of the med. Especially if you are a FF and do this more often. Also, vialed insulin & pens don’t have to be refrigerated typically…only if you’re going to be out and about in a warm (tropical) climate. Those vials are only good for 30 days once opened.

    Curious if anyone has had to go through with a portable wound vac device? Much bigger and more threatening appearance than an insulin pump. I wouldn’t chance that without a prescriber’s note.

  10. Cpap is considered durable medical equipment. The airline does not want to be responsible for it through checked baggage. Take it as a carry-on. Do not put it in another bag. It does NOT count as your carry-on or any part of your baggage. TSA will run it through x-ray and possibly open it unless you are pre-screened. I always wait until I arrive at my destination to purchase distilled water. In a pinch, I have used bottled, filtered water for a night or two. Just make sure you clean your machine thoroughly afterwards to remove any mineral deposits.

  11. Penny, some people actually use their CPAP during the flight, especially overnight flights, so waiting until they arrive isn’t an option. But I’ve researched this and everything I’ve read says you’re correct that using bottled water is fine as long as you clean the machine afterward. Even if you have to do it for a few weeks, as you might for a multi-stop vacation abroad. The concern is about mineral buildup. If a person is worried about bacteria, there are battery-powered disinfecting wands available in camping stores that will kill any bugs in a bottle of water with a couple of stirs.

  12. I have to take 5 days supplies of I V antibiotic on the way my trip so there will be needles .will I be able to bring through security

  13. How does one go about keeping allergy shot medication cold on flights and where can I find it prior to my flights ?

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