By Alan L. Rubin

Whether you travel for your job or for pleasure, if you need insulin injections for diabetes treatment and must carry syringes and needles, you have to follow the rules of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you fly within the United States. Airlines outside the United States may have different rules; check with your airline before you travel overseas.

The TSA instructs that you should “make sure injectable medications are properly labeled (professionally printed label identifying the medication or a manufacturer’s name or pharmaceutical label). Notify the screener if you are carrying a hazardous waste container, refuse container, or a sharps disposable container in your carry-on baggage used to transport used syringes, lancets, etc.” Updated information is available at the TSA website. You can also call the TSA call center at 855-787-2227.

The TSA permits prescription liquid medications and other liquids needed by persons with disabilities and medical conditions. These items include

  • All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including K-Y jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes

  • Liquids including water, juice, or liquid nutrition or gels for passengers with a disability or medical condition

  • Life-support and life-sustaining liquids such as bone marrow, blood products, and transplant organs

  • Items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons, such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline solution, or other liquids

  • Gels or frozen liquids needed to cool disability or medically related items used by persons with disabilities or medical conditions

If the liquid medications are in volumes larger than 3 ounces each, they may not be placed in the quart-size bag used for personal liquids of less than 3 ounces. They must be declared to the Transportation Security Officer.

Specifically with respect to medications for diabetes, notify the Security Officer that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies with you. (Medication and supplies you are going to use should be in your carry-on luggage.) The following diabetes-related supplies and equipment are allowed through the checkpoint after they have been screened:

  • Insulin and insulin-loaded dispensing products (vials or box of individual vials, jet injectors, biojectors, EpiPens, infusers, and preloaded syringes)

  • Unlimited number of unused syringes when accompanied by insulin or other injectable medication

  • Lancets, blood glucose meters, blood glucose meter test strips, alcohol swabs, meter-testing solutions

  • Insulin pump and insulin-pump supplies (cleaning agents, batteries, plastic tubing, infusion kit, catheter, and needle; insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin)

  • Glucagon emergency kit

  • Urine ketone test strips

  • Unlimited number of used syringes when transported in sharps disposal container or other similar hard-surface container

  • Sharps disposal containers or similar hard-surface disposal container for storing used syringes and test strips

Here are some suggestions for managing your diabetes if you’re changing time zones:

  • Obtain a list of doctors in the countries you will visit who speak your language. To find English-speaking doctors, you can contact the US embassy in each country or go to the website of the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.

  • If using an insulin pump, change the basal hourly rate to the same dose every hour so that whether it’s 8 a.m. or 8 p.m., the same dose is given. When you arrive in the new time zone, you can adjust the basal rate back to your usual doses.

  • If you use long-acting insulin, change a single dose to two half doses 12 hours apart.

  • Stick to your regular schedule using local time for any oral medications.

Wherever you go, make sure you wear a bracelet or necklace that identifies you as a person with diabetes.