How To Get Through TSA With These 5 Diabetes Devices & Supplies
This article has been updated as of December 19, 2019
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, everyone must pass through security before boarding a flight. But you may be wondering how to properly get your diabetes supplies and devices through the checkpoint, particularly if you wear an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitor.
The TSA allows for diabetes-related supplies, equipment and medication—including liquids—through the checkpoint once they have been properly screened by X-ray or hand inspection. If possible, pack all your supplies together in your carry-on bag so you have everything on hand. Before your screening begins, inform the officer conducting the screening about any supplies on you or in your carry-on. Here’s how you can fly through TSA with these five common diabetes supplies:
1. Insulin Pump/Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
Taking an insulin pump through airport security is quite common, but it’s always a good idea to carry the Airport Information Card when traveling. You may go through an airport metal detector with your insulin pump and CGM, as these devices are designed to withstand common electromagnetic interference. However, we do not recommend going through an airport body scanner with your pump or CGM, as Medtronic has not determined advanced imaging technology to be safe for insulin pump or CGM devices. Explain to the officer that you cannot remove your infusion set as it is under your skin with tubing and request an alternative pat-down screening process. The same goes for if you’re wearing a CGM. If you do prefer to go through an airport body scanner, be sure to remove your insulin pump and CGM, but do not send your devices through the X-ray machine as an alternative.
2. Insulin Delivery Devices
Be sure to have proof a physician prescribed your insulin and needles by providing a professional, pre-printed pharmaceutical label identifying the medication. Travel with your original insulin box and glucose meter that shows the pharmaceutical label. You may need these items in order to board an airplane with syringes and other insulin delivery devices.
It’s important not to store insulin in checked luggage, as it could be affected by severe changes in pressure and temperature. Be sure to inspect your insulin before injecting each dose, and if you notice anything unusual about the appearance of your insulin, call your doctor. Despite the general rule prohibiting passengers from bringing liquids over 3.4 ounces through security, people with diabetes may take their insulin, other medications such as Glucagon, and other liquids and gels, including juice and cake gel, through TSA checkpoints, even if they’re in containers greater than 3.4 ounces. Accessories required to keep insulin cool, such as freezer packs or frozen gel packs, are permitted through the screening checkpoint.
Similar to insulin, you may carry your glucagon in its original, pharmaceutically labeled container through airport security. Although TSA allows multiple containers of liquid or gel to treat hypoglycemia, you may want to consider alternative forms of carbohydrates, including glucose tablets, hard candy, or raisins, for ease of travel.
You may go through airport security with lancets as long as they are capped and carried with your glucose meter with the manufacturer’s name embossed on the meter.
If you encounter difficulty when trying to pass through airport security, ask to speak with the TSA Ground Security Commissioner or the international equivalent.
You can visit the Medtronic website for more Travel Information, check the TSA website for up to date security checkpoint and travel guidelines, and visit these TSA quick links for additional travel information:
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At Medtronic Diabetes our vision is to transform diabetes care together for greater freedom and better health. Each word in that statement is important – including the one “together”. We’re a group of passionate people working hard to make a big positive impact on the lives of those with diabetes. But we can’t do it alone. Collaboration is key. With healthcare providers, academic institutions, non-profits and other companies. And, most importantly, with you – the people who live with diabetes every day.
Hi, Sandra. Your pump and CGM are safe to go through a metal detector, but should not go through any x-ray devices or a body scanner. Alert the TSA that you have these items and you should be offered an alternative screening process. We’re unable to speak to your other devices. Have a good trip!
I am going abroad for my studies to canada
And i had a question, how much infusion sets and supplies will i be allowed to carry with me with me or in my luggage
I wanted to know how many of infusion sets i can take with me as i dont want to get any trouble
This will be a great question for the customs office in Canada. They will have the most up to date information.
My boyfriend has diabetes type 1. He is new to traveling so he was unaware he could take his insulin and needles to the destinations we travel to. Each time he just buy insulin and needles when we get to our destination and discard it before we return. It was brought to my attention that he can just take his insulin and needles with him. I see that some comments are saying make sure insulin has his name or prescription attached. If his insulin and needles are brought as a generic brand ( generic brand is cheaper than copay) from walmart, what can he bring to prove that he in fact does have diabetes and that it is his medicine. He usually buy the needles in a bulk box so they are in packs of 10 (i believe) and his novalin comes in a small box. Can his doctor just write up a letter but what would it possibly say?
Tisha, thanks for reaching out. If your boyfriend is purchasing insulin without a prescription, a letter from his healthcare provider should work. I encourage you to check with the TSA for specifics on what the letter should include.
I only had one incident that i was held for a while and checked 3 times almost miss my flight but the TSA agents are very apologetic because they know I have diabetes. Like most people going through TSA or Airport security it is mostly an easy process when you let them know that you have insulin pump and CGM ahead of time. I also have a tattoo that looks like a medical tag that say diabetes type 1 on my arm. All my supplies are inside the ziplock bags along with my insulin pens or vials for easy access and to show the agents.
Hi, I’m a bit surprised by some of the information given under #4, Glucagon.
“Similar to insulin, you may carry your glucagon in its original, pharmaceutically labeled container through airport security. Although TSA allows multiple containers of liquid or gel to treat hypoglycemia, you may want to consider alternative forms of carbohydrates, including glucose tablets, hard candy, or raisins, for ease of travel.”
While it is always a good idea & recommended to have alternative forms of carbohydrates with you, none of those alternative forms of carbs are a replacement for Glucagon. If a person with diabetes is unconscious or unable to ingest & swallow food/swallow liquids (due to extreme hypoglycemia), that is the only time when Glucagon should be used or call for emergency help.
To me, #4 read as if those alternative forms of carbohydrates were in fact possible replacements for Glucagon, which they are not. And that is the point I was trying to make.
We appreciate the feedback, Karen. It was not our intent to imply that other alternative cars are a replacement for Glucagon.
My husband is travelling from uk to Vegas next wk. She uses an insulin pen and has a XXXXXXXXX XXXXXsensor. Will this be an issue at security?
Hi, Laura. For many customers, traveling with diabetes products is no different than other travelers. I encourage you to check with your international version of TSA for specifics. For travel within the US, you can learn more from the Transportation Security Administration here: http://www.tsa.gov
I am confused! You say that my pump and CGM can be worn through the whole body scanners, but not the xray ones? How does one know one from the other? I have always been told by the TSA that I can go through the scanner without removing my pump. I always ask for a pat own. I do not want to risk having wither one of these items damaged by going through. Also traveling with a travel loaner pump, my question is this since it is still in a plastic wrap from the factory do I have to take it out of that and take it through the pat down?
Gwynne, you shouldn’t take your pump through the body scanners or put it on the belt to go through the x-ray. When carrying a travel loner pump, it should also be removed from your luggage, and not be subjected to the scanner or x-ray conveyor. Your pump is safe for use around metal detectors and hand wands. If you have questions about the type of scanner being uses, TSA should be able to answer any questions you may have, to allow you to make an informed decision about your devices. You can also learn more about traveling with your pump and CGM here: http://bit.ly/LiIqzf
Since I never see this information online (and I haven’t checked the leaflet in the box yet), is it safe to send your supplies for the insulin pump and CGM (the sensors) through the airport bag x-ray machine? I always see that you should remove your CGM & sensor if you have to go through the body-scanner but never anything about whether it’s safe to send all your supplies through the bag x-ray thing.
Hi, Lorien. Your supplies are safe to travel with. You should disconnect your insulin pump for an airport body scanner. Check out our website for all of the information you need for traveling and airport security at http://bit.ly/LiIqzf. We hope you enjoy your next trip!
Clearly all airports are not the same when it comes to TSA and diabetic pumps. Denver TSA agents were complete jerks!
This will be my first flight and I’m very worried about my medicines. I have diabeties and only take 2 pills aday. I need my meter and lancets and strips do I put them in my small baggy to use up my little space for other stuff. Or can I put in my purse as carry on. Read so much on this different answers. Flying on delta to texas
Thanks for reading our blog, Karen. We recommend putting all of your supplies and other medicines in your carry on and check with your local airport or TSA for options approved carry on rules. Good luck and enjoy your trip!
I have the 670G, as of January of 2018. Previously, I had been pumping with Medtronic devices since 2002. I am finding the new airport screening requirements very bothersome. I have had a couple of instances where I have had to wait 10-15 minutes for someone to come while I stand there with all of my items either already through the xray or holding up the line. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I don’t like to create a spectacle of any kind around my diabetes, so this new requirement that I cannot go through the body scanner and my sensors have to be hand inspected also, is very bothersome to me. I would appreciate it if Medtronic would do some work to ensure that the sensors and transmitter are safe to go through the body scanners or work to get exceptions for people with these devices to be waived from the body scanner requirement and required instead only to go through the metal detector. While I was held up waiting for a pat down last week, a mother and her two small children were able to go through the metal detector rather than the body scanner, so clearly there are exceptions in place.
We appreciate the feedback, Chris. Metal detectors and wands are ok for your pump, but I can’t speak to TSA’s exception policy. I understand the frustration and I’ve shared your comments with our team.
This is completely unacceptable; You need to figure out how to make cgm sensors and pumps that can go through the full body scanners. Dealing with diabetes in the first place as well as the crippling costs that you for-profit companies extort from us is enough without having to be subjected to the humiliation of having to be felt up by some TSA officer most likely due in large part to your lawyers not approving language that says your equipment can go through the scanners. You had nearly $30 billion in revenue last year; don’t tell me you can’t figure this out!
Matt, we are always working on ways to improve our products and appreciate your feedback. Because the nature of our medical devices they shouldn’t be exposed to any strong magnetic field. A magnetic field can damage the internal components of your device and it can become non-functional or fail to regulate your insulin dosage. We recommend reaching out to TSA for alternatives to the body scanners and pat downs.
Just had a horrible airport experience at Lyon France with my Medtronic XXX pump!
Arriving at the trays I emptied my pockets as normal and then proceeded to a member of staff to say I had my pump and would prefer not to go through the scanner.
They basically said I had to, said they didn’t speak English so couldn’t understand me, then told me (all in perfect English) they had asked the policeman and he said go through or don’t go on the flight. They said the laws in France had changed in the week id been away!! They were not very pleasant about it and wrote something in a file with my boarding pass , I am assuming this was a complaint.
Our transfer had been delayed as it was and I knew I didn’t have much time so eventually I went through the scanner.
Are the scanners all the same? Should I have gone through? It was an archway scanner where you just walk through,not the type where you stand still, raise your hands and then it scans you. Afterwards my pump seems fine.
I do fly quite a lot and have never had this problem, they normally let me through a gate and swab my pump.
Should I have gone through?
Sorry for the long message – think I need a coffee!!
Hi, Andrea. I’m sorry for the delay in response and for such a difficult experience at the airport. We don’t recommend taking your pump through body scanners or the x-ray conveyor, to prevent potential pump malfunctions. Keep in mind, they are safe to be worn around metal detectors and hand wands. I’m glad to hear your pump is still working, but we’re here to troubleshoot if you have any concerns. Grab that cup of coffee and give us a call at 800.646.4633, option 1.
I agree. I just tried coming through Ft Lauderdale and handed them everything to hand inspect. I went through full body scanner and when I came out on the other side, they had tested my pump in another type of machine, which worries me, and told me it failed and needed to be put through the scanner. I refused and told them the manufacturer said it can not go through X-ray and body scanners. They said policy required it to go through the X-ray/scanner if it failed the test, or I needed to go back out. I said I live in Virginia, not Florida, and I had no problem with TSA in Raleigh. I said somebody who knows more about this needs to look at this cause I know I’m not the first person to come through here with an insulin pump. Finally they inspected all my luggage, took my pump apart, and patted me down, embarrassing my son. Why did my pump fail a hand inspection? These insulin pump companies need to work out something with TSA.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Barbara, I’m sorry it was a difficult one. Unfortunately, I don’t know the specifics of TSA inspection process, but know we have shared feedback our products with the appropriate agencies. Let us know how your next adventure goes!
Hello, I work in offshore and I will bring a glucometer with me with some strips, would it be a problem? I will bring it home for my dad who has diabetes.
Xander, you shouldn’t have any trouble traveling with a glucometer, but we always recommend checking with TSA or your airline for specifics.
Kindly if I have plan to travel more than 12 hrs . I need to carry out plenty of insulin pins for my usage for a long period.
MY question is if I carry out a portable cooler and put it with checking bags. Is it acceptable in airports or not? Specially it is working by 12 V.
Reda, this is a good question for your local airport or TSA directly. They can let you know what is and isn’t allowed. Enjoy your trip!
I have to travel internationally with an insulin pen can I take the single pen without the box as I don’t need all my pens? I only need 8 days supply and needles.
Edwin, I’d recommend double-checking with the TSA directly, but you may consider taking only as many pens as you need and putting them in their original box when you travel.
I have traveled quite a bit and here is my plan and other options for TSA. I have an insulin pump and CGM.
Option 1 with Pump only:
Prior to having a CGM and when I was just on a pump I would disconnect at my site, and suspend my pump, just so I don’t leak insulin on the TSA agents. I would let the TSA agent know that I had a pump. I would let them know that it cannot go through xray or body scanner. Sometimes they tell me that it is safe, but I just tell them the manufacturer of the pump says it cannot, this usually shuts them up. Then I place my pump into a small bin and hand it to an agent, watching them take it around the scanner and xray, not through it. I go through the scanner and then meet the agent on the other side. They then usually make me touch the pump, then they scan my hands and the pump with a hand held device. I then reconnect and I’m on my way.
Option 2 pump only:
Opt out. They hand frisk you, make sure to let them know about your pump, you are not required to disconnect it if you do not want to. They will then scan your hands again.
Pump and CGM option 1:
If you want to have you CGM in place, obviously it is inconvenient to disconnect the CGM sensor with all the adhesive, so your only “safe” option is to opt out. Let them know about your sensor and pump, they will hand pat the area and you and then scan your hands. I have not found that any TSA agent will let me walk through a metal detector in lieu of the body scanner and or patdown if the body scanner is working (but this is my experience)
Pump and CGM option 2:
If you time your sensor replacement right, you could go to the airport without a CGM sensor in place but bring everything with you. Follow what I do in Option 1 with pump only, but hand them your pump AND your CGM sensor. Then after your hands are cleared and you are on your way, go to the bathroom and insert a new sensor. If you already had a sensor in place, you could always remove the tape prior to arriving to the airport, pop out the actual sensor and leave the inserted part in and then pop is back and secure with tape after you clear security.
Yes you can keep insulin and needles on your person, keep them in your carry on. If traveling with somebody, give them some supplies too in case you lose/forget your carry on. I’ve never had an issue, they can all go through xray. Never check insulin or supplies, temperatures can get very cold in the baggage area of a plane, also the airlines may lose your stuff. I usually don’t travel with a RX in the US, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. I’m about to go to Thailand with some in country flights and I will bring one just in case Thai security has questions. Pack extra. The main pump companies offer loner programs, so you can get a pump sent to you to bring as a back up, HIGHLY recommended…just make sure it does not go through xray or the body scanner. Bring double the supplies you think you will need.
Rule of thumb:
BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF! Don’t let TSA bully you. This has happend to me once in LAX. I followed option 1, but a new TSA agent was confused and brought me over to a supervisor who kept asking me why I disconnected my pump. For some reason he wanted to make a big deal over it, I just told him sternly that this is how I have done it for 15 years prior without an issue and that he obviously did not understand his policy and procedures ( I don’t recommend telling a TSA supervisor that, but I felt he needed an education). He gave me back my pump and I was on my way.
I hope someone can find this info useful!
Type 1 since 2001, doesn’t stop me from anything
I have quite a few miles of air travel. TSA procedures are usually pretty straightforward, but there’s always a chance of getting a “gung-ho” agent who takes things to the extreme. As far as carry on supplies, it all goes thru the X-ray machine, no questions asked. I always go through the scanner with pump and sensor on, just get the hand swab and maybe a short pat down. The ONE time I opted for X-ray rather than scanner turned into a nightmare. First, I had to BEG to go thru X-ray because the precheck passengers get priority. I got through, they did the hand swab and the “enhanced” TSA massage. Then they opened all my carry-on, did a cursory sort and told me to wait right there. After 5 minutes, a couple of women agents took me and all my stuff into a private room. They did a far more “enhanced” pat down and also a thorough wanding for good measure. (I was allowed to keep my clothes on). The other one went through all my stuff, swabbing the insides and putting the samples into a huge machine. They were very nice about the whole thing, but I was getting nervous. What the heck are they looking for??? A half hour later they said I was free to go. I asked what set off this whole thing and the agent replied that sometimes the machines pick up something that isn’t really there. I would have liked to know what the exact substance they were looking for, but I didn’t want to push my luck or miss my flight. It was also a good thing that I got to the airport early instead of my usual last minute arrival. So yeah, it’s scanner forever for me.
More confused now. OK, so my 523 pump can’t go through the body scanner. If I can go through a metal detector instead, then I can either leave pump on and go through, or take pump off (disconnect at infusion site), give it to TSA agent to hand inspect?, what? If I disconnect from pump to go through a metal detector, what do I do with the pump?
What do I do with my supplies bag? It’s got everything to change a sensor and my reservoir, plus a vial of insulin and so forth. What do I do with it? Are all those parts okay to go through the xray on the belt, or do I have to ask them to hand-inspect my whole supplies bag?
Hi Jack – here is a great chart on equipment interference. You can go through an airport metal detector: https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/customer-support/equipment-interference. Another option is asking for a pat down.
I do not have an insulin pump. I do daily injections. Will I be allowed to carry syringes on my person?
Yes! I’ve always carried my insulin and my needles in my carry-on. I just make sure my insulin is in the box that it came in with the prescription on the box saying that it’s mine. They’ve never check my medicines but just in case.
“If you do go through an airport body scanner, be sure to remove your insulin pump and CGM, but do not send your devices through the x-ray machine as an alternative. ”
“remove your CGM????” That is crazy talk – even if by this you mean to just remove the transmitter, I always have mine well-taped down and removing it for the airport security would be difficult to say the least. so, is it that you/we simply don’t know if the transmitter will be impacted or you do know that they are negatively impacted???
Now that I’ve read this story and comments, I will surely be more careful with my pump (530G) and have TSA hand check it through, however, I’ve either sent it through the x-ray or kept it on my body and walked through many a body scanner with nary a problem. I guess I’ve just been lucky?
Hi Larkspur, here is a great chart for what items to remove due to equipment interference: https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/customer-support/equipment-interference.
thank you Karrie.
I use insulin pens and needles. Do I have to have the prescriptions with me?
I don’t have to takeep insulin or pills, I just need to test 3 times a week for the next 3 months. Can I just put my monitor on suitcase under the plane.?
Hi Charlyn – that is a personal preference. The reason some diabetes supplies are suggested to keep with you is in the event that luggage is lost. Just something to keep in mind.
To avoid a pat-down and the chance of damaging my pump, I have used this method at TSA checkpoints in many domestic airports. Suspend the pump and remove the reservoir. Hand the pump to a TSA agent and ask for a “hand check”. Then go through the body scanner. They will pat the infusion site and may swab your hands for further screening, but no complete pat-down. The will hand the pump back, then I re-insert the reservoir and restart the pump.
PS. Most TSA agents will try to convince you that their machines will not harm your pump…but I don’t want to risk damaging my pump when I’m headed away from home!
Thanks for these tips Craig. I’m curious why you remove the reservoir, or is that the only way you are able to disconnect from the pump? (i have quick connections at the insertion site so I often unclip my pump). Mainly, I wondered if there was some reason to not give them the insulin reservior?? thanks.
Ive had 2 issues with pump failure after traveling. I no longer go through any scanners and always opt out when I travel. I now ask for a pat down each and every time I travel. I have a Medtronic 523. I will never chance going through a scanner again. Better tp.be safe than sorry.
Joel, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had pump failure after traveling. If you don’t want a pat down, you can walk through the metal detector with your insulin pump and CGM. Just be sure to not take your pump through the new body scanners or put it on the x-ray belt. Please let me know if you’re currently experiencing any issues with your pump, and I’ll have a member of my team connect with you.
I’ve flown many times, even overseas and back, without any problems or questions. You are allowed a medical bag that does not count as carryon, so be sure to keep that bag as only medical.
I’m glad to hear you’ve had smooth traveling experiences throughout the years, Candice. Thank you for sharing your helpful travel tip with us.
I just got back from Cleveland/New Jersey. I experienced the same hand-rubbing procedure. I lifted my shirt to display my infusion site but they said you don’t have to do that, sir.
I made sure to pack everything I could think of, including backups… an insulin vial, infusion sets, CGM sets, tape, inserters, recharger, glucometer and strips, a spare battery, an insulin pen with spare needles, and a bottle of glucose tablets. I also made sure the bag was a carry-on as opposed to being checked and stored in a part of the plane I’d be unable to reach inflight (which would also potentially be exposed to tens of degrees below-zero conditions).
My sensor conked out during my trip in the middle of a seminar. During a break, I changed it because I had everything with me. At the airport, my plane was delayed and my pump battery ran out. I popped a new one in.
I won’t say I didn’t have a few moments of panic (such as when I thought my glucometer fell out of my pants in the plane, which I had departed). But overall everything was smooth. I had read about pressure differentials during takeoff and landing affecting basal delivery from the pump (“baggage check lows”), but that didn’t happen. And I got plenty of exercise by deliberately running around the airport.
It sounds like you were well prepared, Jonathan! I’m happy your travel was smooth sailing.
I just got back from San Francisco. I had no problems with my pump or my meter. I went through the body scanner, and all they did was have me rub my hands over my pump and then wiped my hands with some kind of cloth. I’m told it was to check for gunpowder or explosive residue. Just make sure to tell them before you go through the scanner.
Sherri, thank you for sharing your travel experience with us. I’m glad to hear you didn’t have any issues going through TSA with your pump or meter.
Body scanners: are they X-ray
I am escorting my minor grandchild to airport to fly home going thru security I have a medical alert braclet I never take off a continuous diabetic device and a prosthetic breast what do I do just ask for pat down and inform them of the above info