May is the month when many families start thinking about summer vacation. If you’re dreaming of California, Disney World or another distant locale, you may opt to fly. But then, chances are you’ll start wondering about how you’ll manage your child’s diabetes in transit.
Air travel with a family in tow can be both fun and challenging, but the challenges may amp up a bit when you have a child with diabetes. However, if you’re properly prepared, the fun can greatly outweigh any issues presented by diabetes.
“The good news is that you don’t need a doctor’s letter for air travel,” said Janet Haas, RN, CDE, certified diabetes educator for Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology. “It’s important to note that insulin must have original prescription labels on it, but all other diabetes supplies are fine to carry through the airport and on the plane.”
Janet and her fellow diabetes experts offer the following tips for flying with your child with diabetes:
- Arrive at the airport 2 to 3 hours before your flight.
- Review the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for travel updates.
- Download the My TSA mobile app.
- Bring original prescription labels for medications and medical devices whenever possible. Although they’re not required, the TSA process may go more smoothly if they’re available.
- Pack medications in a separate, clear sealable bag. When going through screening, separate them from your other belongings.
- Keep a quick-acting source of glucose and a snack handy to treat low blood glucose.
- Have your child wear or carry medical identification.
- Bring your physician’s contact information.
- Pack extra supplies.
- Be patient with lines, delays and new screening procedures.
Thanks to the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA’s) advocacy efforts, individuals with diabetes have certain rights. These include the ability to:
- Take diabetes supplies with you on the plane. This includes insulin and insulin-loaded dispensing products, necessary liquids like juice, lancets, blood glucose meters, insulin pumps, urine ketone test strips and other equipment.
- Request hand inspection of insulin. Under normal conditions, it’s safe to put insulin through X-ray machines. However, you can have it hand inspected if you’re concerned about it.
- Contact support services to resolve any problems. If you encounter an immediate issue during screening, ask for a Passenger Support Specialist or supervisor. You can also contact the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673.
- Submit complaints after your trip. If you believe your child was subject to unfair treatment due to her diabetes, call the ADA at 1-800-DIABETES (342-2383) to speak with a legal advocate. Direct complaints about treatment by TSA personnel to TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties by completing an online form or sending an email to TSA-CRL@tsa.dhs.gov.
Recently, TSA launched TSA Cares, a helpline that assists travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. If you have air travel questions, call 72 hours before traveling at 1-855-787-2227. The line is open 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m.-11 p.m., weekends and holidays.
For additional travel information relating to your child with diabetes, visit diabetes.org.