Traveling with Medical Devices
Traveling with various medical devices or with a medical condition can seem daunting, but knowing airline regulations and what resources are available can make a big difference in the ease of your entire airport experience, especially going through security.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has published a list of what passengers can bring with them and whether or not they are allowed in a carry-on or checked bag. To see a full list, click here.
If you are planning to bring a CPAP machine, notify your travel agent before travel so they can take care of the proper reporting procedures. By attaching a medical equipment tag to your CPAP machine, you can rest assure that it will not be considered as a carry on. This will allow you to still bring a personal bag and a carry-on bag. Airlines, especially foreign airline carriers, request that you call and give them the machine model number. You may also be asked to answer a few questions to ensure a smooth travel experience.
Using a medical device during a flight is often allowed, but be aware that while many airlines provide electrical outlets, most cannot support the use of medical devices. Because of this, you will need to bring your own batteries. Certain batteries and even some air concentrators are not approved on airlines. Passengers are allowed up to 2 spare lithium batteries and they are ONLY allowed as a carry-on item (cannot be placed in a checked bag). Most airlines also require that you have at least 150% of flight time in battery life for your medical devices. To see if your oxygen concentrator is allowed onboard, call the airline and double check with the machine manufacturer to see if it is safe to use during the flight. Click here for more information on TSA special procedures for disabilities and medical conditions.
From contact lens solution to CPAP machines and everything in between, notify the TSA officer of your condition and what supplies you are carrying. With some medications, “TSA [will allow] larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must declare them to TSA officers at the checkpoint for inspection.” (TSA website) To be safe, talk to your travel agent or call the airline ahead of time to make sure that you can bring your medication on the flight.
Regardless of your situation, you may be asked to complete additional screening, so give yourself plenty of time to complete the security process. If you feel like you will need additional assistance or if you have questions about the TSA process when it comes to your medical condition, call the TSA Cares helpline (855-787-2227) at least 72 hours before travel. You also have the option of giving the TSA officer a TSA Notification Card should you wish to relay your medical condition privately. For immediate assistance at the airport, ask for a Passenger Support Specialist, a TSA officer who has been specifically trained in interacting with individuals who need special arrangements or who are concerned about the security screening.
If your situation requires you to have distilled water, you can arrange with your cruise line to have the water brought to your cabin room. Traveling internationally? Many restaurants or hotels may not have distilled water on hand. Check with hotel staff for assistance on locating a nearby shop equivalent of a drug store to purchase bottled water.
Don’t let your own or your family member’s medical device or condition be an excuse not to travel. There are plenty of resources and people on hand to assist with your travel needs and the needs of those closest to you.