Airport travel and diabetes do not always mix flawlessly.
In fact, traveling by plane when you have diabetes can prove really challenging. Even upsetting when being heavily questioned or searched by security. Juice boxes used to be our go-to to treat low blood sugar. Juice is a liquid and that and the medical device (insulin pump) attached to my son has made many airport security officers around the world very uncomfortable.
My son and I have travelled extensively together, visiting many countries in his 11 years. While going through airport security with diabetes medication and accessories is not always difficult, sometimes it is. And it always comes down to a lack of awareness and education.
Usually, it goes well, but there are a few experiences that still sit very heavy in my heart.
Diabetes Supplies and Airport Security
It can be a challenging experience of explaining what a Continuous Glucose Monitor is for, and how it works, to airport security. According to the manufacturer, these devices cannot be taken through an airport x-ray machine and this can cause suspicion and maybe even hostility.
I have some tips on preparing for travel with diabetes such as documentation from company websites and letters from your doctor explaining your equipment. These nuggets of wisdom may be useful to you if you are traveling with diabetes, or if you’re the parent or caretaker of a child with Type 1.
Continuous Glucose Monitors and X-Ray Machines, Metal Detectors and Body Scanners
If you are traveling with diabetes, can you take your Continuous Glucose Monitor through airport X-rays, metal detectors or airport body scanners? Learn what the manufacturers recommend.
It may be questioned by security, but as frustrating as it is, remain as calm as possible. I will admit that if security becomes unreasonable, I ask for a supervisor to explain about my son’s medical devices.
Never feel you should compromise your diabetes devices, or feel shame or fear about having diabetes. People avoid scanners with pacemakers, and those are inside the body. Why is this any different?
Diabetes Supplies and Airports – Manufacturers’ Advice
Here some important resources to help you with some of the main devices on the market. I highly recommend you print these, as well as a note from your doctor that lists everything you need to travel with. When you are at the security scanner, walk them through with you. According to the device companies, they should not be exposed to X-rays.
- Freestyle Libre (see the question “Does this sensor require any special handling at the airport?”)
Also, do not forget to check the websites of the airport that you will be traveling through. Some of them now have programs to identify passengers with special needs or medical devices. This makes everything so much easier.
Help Us Ease the Challenges of Airport Travel and Diabetes
The DiapointME mission is to advocate for people with diabetes, and that involves sharing information and education to promote better awareness about diabetes, and the challenges that people with diabetes face every day.
By sharing this article on your social media pages, sending it to your friends, adding your comments and questions below you can help us lessen the burden and even change someone’s life.
It is my wish today that airport security around the globe understand that children and adults with Type 1 Diabetes (and their families) who carry medical supplies that are sensitive to airport scanners not be treated guilty until proven innocent.
If you work in an airport and want to learn more, or want your staff to learn more, or learn how to empathize more with people who have medical conditions, I will gladly come and speak to anyone on this subject (find out more about hiring me to speak at your event).
You are welcome to comment here and ask questions about traveling with diabetes. We will endeavor to help you as much as we can.
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My number on issue is getting airport security to give me a pat down. I have significant metal joints and hardware for breaks etc and I am unable to make it through the the metal detector. I use the Medtronic CGM so taking it off for a body scanner is just impossible, so I opt for the pat down. Lord have mercy gettign that done is like pulling teeth.
Currently in the US. Going to try TSA cares and see if it helps. Will keep you posted!