How To Prepare For Airport Security When Flying With Medications

As many Americans know, when you’re traveling by plane in the United States, you’re required to follow the 3-1-1 rule: “you’re allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounce or less per item.” (https://www.tsa.gov/videos/travel-tips-3-1-1-liquids-rule)

Other countries follow similar guidelines, i.e. when flying in the U.K., “containers must hold no more than 100ml, containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, with holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20xm x 20cm, and contents must fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed.” (https://www.gov.uk/hand-luggage-restrictions/essential-medicines-and-medical-equipment) Similar restrictions are followed in Australia, Canada, the E.U., etc.

But if you’re on certain medications, especially if they’re in liquid form and take up more than 3.4 ounces, then what do you do? Well, in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (T.S.A.) has got you covered:

 

Make sure to let the T.S.A. officer know about your situation at the start of your screening process.

In the U.K., as per this page of gov.uk, you’re allowed to carry essential medications of more than 100ml in your hand luggage, but you’ll need supporting documentation from a relevant medical professional (i.e. a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription). The same goes for gel packs.

In Australia, as per this page of the Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, a reasonable quantity of prescription and non-prescription medication and equipment is allowed and supporting documentation is required. Check the page for what is considered a reasonable amount.

In Canada, this page reviews Canadian policies of flying with prescription and essential non-prescription medications, medical items and mobility aids, and medical marijuana.

None of these pages mention what medications canNOT be brought into other countries, but you can check the Customs & Border Protection page of the country you’re visiting for clarification (i.e. it’s illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including some inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain Pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers), or Codeine are prohibited if it contains more than allowed quantity of stimulant raw materials).

Caveat: I realize there’s no guarantee that any given government worker will follow the rules exactly. I don’t know what happens in other countries but I’ve read reports about how individual T.S.A. workers will sometimes forget or eschew some regulations and make things difficult for travelers who have certain medical needs. But the above is what’s “supposed” to happen.

THIS NEXT PART IS IMPORTANT!

Regardless of where you’re traveling to/from, always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS carry your medications and medical equipment with you, preferably in your small personal carry-on item/handbag (so if you’re asked to gate check your carry-on luggage for some reason, you don’t have to worry that they’re going to lose all your meds or break your CPAP machine). Unless it’s a piece of equipment that won’t fit in your carry-on bag (even if your carry-on is empty), DON’T EVER PUT ESSENTIAL PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS OR MEDICAL EQUIPMENT IN YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE. Equipment can be damaged in transit and if your luggage is lost, you won’t have your equipment, or even more important, your medication, until it’s returned to you. If you figure that’s no big deal and you can just get a replacement of your prescription at the closest pharmacy, heads up that you may or may not be able to to do that – click here to read Joe’s post about that (he specified it for people vacationing in Walt Disney World but it would generally be the same no matter where in the U.S. you would be).

Finally, if you take medication that needs to stay refrigerated: most government agencies allow freezer/gel packs as a necessary part of your required medical equipment (some require written verification from a doctor, some do not – depends on the country). However if you want to play it safe and have a supply of ice on hand, follow the directions in this post (and yeah, the post specifies keeping food cold but it’s the same principle for medications). I suggest you replace the ice during stopovers ;-).

Happy, safe, HEALTHY traveling!

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