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Air Travel Tips

If your family is travelling by air, you are likely to be subject to more security air travel and type 1 diabetesmeasures and have less freedom of movement (think delays on the tarmac, or re-routing due to weather). As a result, it is wise to consider the following guidelines.

Tips for Air Travel (Airport Security):

  • Tell the screening officer at the airport that your child has diabetes and/or wears an insulin pump. Present in a clear bag all items for hand inspection (loaner pump, insulin, liquids over the allowable level, etc). Leave yourself extra time to get through security.
  • Leave all medications and supplies in their original containers, with the labels intact and clear. Syringes and lancets should be capped. It’s best if the name on the medication is the same as the name on the ticket.
  • Be prepared to show the screening officer a current prescription for all the supplies you will be taking onto the plane (including a blood glucose monitor, insulin pump, and glucagon). Again, it’s best if the name on the prescription is the same as the name on the ticket.
  • When travelling with an insulin pump, be aware that it is your right in Canada NOT TO DISCONNECT a medical device such as an insulin pump at security screening stations. Once you have disconnected, it is within the screening officer’s authority to put the device through the x-ray machine, which may pose a risk to the functioning of the pump. If the pump remains connected to your child, you may request a hand inspection of the pump and your child. If you do choose a hand inspection, it is your right to be with your child at all times during the process.
We are aware, however, that this can be a sticky situation, especially if you are travelling outside of Canada where your rights may differ. We recognize that faced with a decision to disconnect or be refused boarding for your flight, many of us may feel pressured to disconnect. If you encounter difficulties, asking to speak to a transportation security supervisor may help. In any case, we recommend that you know your rights, and then use your own judgement regarding whether or not to defend those rights in a given situation.

tips from the trenches for type 1 diabetes

We found it useful to prepare my young son for this possibility beforehand by telling him that the man may pat his clothes and may wave a wand over his pump to make sure it was “okay”. If we had not done so, I suspect my son would have been quite worried about what they were doing.  ~Michelle

  • Research current restrictions on what you can put in your checked and carry-on baggage. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) offers the following guidelines (as of September, 2012):
    • Liquids include items such as coffee, bottled water and shampoos. Gels are comprised of food items like jam, pudding and yogurt, and personal-care products like lipstick or hair styling gel.
    • Containers of liquids, aerosols or gels in your carry-on must be 100 ml/100 grams (3.4 oz) or less, EXCEPT the following, which are allowed in your carry-on in containers over 100 ml (and which must be declared at security screening):
      • If travelling with an infant under two years of age (0-24 months), baby food, milk, formula, water and juice in small containers and reasonable amounts for your itinerary.
      • Prescription and essential non-prescription medicines. (*our note: this includes liquids and gels for treatment of low blood glucose).

For more information on travelling with liquids and gels, including how to present these items for screening, see the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) website’s article “Everything You Should Know About Liquids, Aerosols and Gels”.

For information on travel from and within other countries, please consult your local air transport authority.

  • For those of you worried about blood glucose monitors and insulin pumps at security checkpoints, please note that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) indicates (as of September 21, 2012) that:
“The following mobility aids and medical items are permitted through the security checkpoint”: ...All Diabetes Related Medication, Equipment and Supplies”.

  • If you typically use cake icing as a low treatment, be aware that it may not be allowed on board. You may find more success if you opt for a gel specifically designed for the treatment of hypoglycemia. Dex4 glucose gel, for example, comes in a small tube containing 15g of carbs (the standard low treatment for some people).
  • If you are stopped by security, stay calm. Do not take it personally; they are just trying to ensure the safety of all passengers. If the situation gets uncomfortable, politely ask to speak with a transportation security supervisor.
  • Ensuring you have all necessary documentation from your child’s doctor tends to make security clearances smoother. When in doubt about whether certain documentation is necessary, bring it just in case.
tips from the trenches of type 1 diabetes

We have never been asked at security for a prescription or a letter confirming that our son has diabetes and needs to wear an insulin pump. However, I bring that prescription and letter every time I travel out of Canada, convinced that the first time I don’t have it, they’ll ask for it.  ~Michelle

Other Resources:

Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. This Government of Canada website offers information on security screening, including packing tips, screening procedures, and travel tips.

Any questions? Comments? Feel free to Contact Us.

The above information was significantly modified with permission from The Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic information handouts.

The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.

This material has been developed from sources that we believe are accurate, however, as the field of medicine (in particular as it applies to diabetes) is rapidly evolving, the information should not be relied upon, as it is designed for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.

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