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Flying with Type 1 Diabetes
Long lines at security, limits on what you can carry on, and being stuck in the air without forgotten supplies pose a potential risk, but with the necessary precautions and preparation, you should be on your way to your destination with as little turbulence as possible!
Before You Go
Call TSA Cares and Your Airline
Provide TSA Cares with your flight and medical information/needs. They'll pass the information along to the airport(s) you will be flying out of. What happens next depends on the airport, based on the resources and time they have to accomodate you. They are supposed to either call or email you beforehand, but if they don't, TSA Cares advises you to go to a security officer and ask for help.
Some airlines may offer to store refrigerated medication or keep freezer packs cold. Don't take this as a guarantee though - refrigerators can be too full and flight attendants may not honor what the airline has told you. If you plan to have them keep your freezer packs cold, bring extra so you can use some on the plane and then swap out for the freshly chilled ones afterwards.
Find a Local T1D Family
Reach out to locals where you are traveling to make a connection with another type 1 family in the area. It never hurts to find nearby support as back up and it certainly doesn't hurt to meet another member of the tribe! Use our Local T1D Support Map here to find help in your area!
Pack Your Supplies
Most airports will let you through security with medically necessary liquids (baby milk/formula, juice for low BGs, etc.). To avoid any problems, you should pull these liquids out into a separate bin and alert the officers that it is medically necessary.
Ensure your carry on has everything you need while at the airport, keeping in mind that your flight(s) could be delayed or missed and that you may need extra supplies. Also, consider splitting some of your supplies between your carry on and your checked bag so that if you lose one or the other, you're not without life-saving essentials.
Frio insulin cooling cases are great for keeping insulin room temperature (in up to 100 degree weather). They stay cool for up to 48 hours and they are activated by water (no refrigerators/freezers necessary)!
Don't forget to pack a carb counting book if you need it for reference. You don't want to be stuck in the air, ready to eat with no carb count! Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly more available, so that may be an option as well.
Consider asking your endocrinologist/doctor for a letter detailing the diagnosis and specific medications and needs you may have. While it's not mandatory, it may help to have as a back-up in case you get a difficult security officer.
Consider Travel Insurance
If you're flying to a different country, check your current health insurance plan's travel terms and consider getting travel insurance in the case of any emergencies.
The Day Of the Flight
If the airport has not contacted you in regards to your TSA Cares information, find a security officer and advise them of your medical needs. Let them know that you did call TSA Cares, but did not get contacted prior to your arrival.
Check with your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) manufacturer to find specific guidelines as to whether your device can safely go through an x-ray or body scanner. According to Dexcom, because the effects of every type of x-rays and body scanners has not been studied on their devices, the recommend avoiding them altogether (both for the devices you're wearing but also any you have packed). Better to be safe than sorry if you're not sure and request a pat down/hand wand. It may behoove you to warn them that you have a medical device on your body that cannot be removed due to being under the skin.
On the Plane
If you're planning on having the airplane refrigerate your medicine or keep your freezer packs cool, speak with a flight attendant as soon as you can. Explain why it is medically necessary and remember, you attract more flies with honey than vinegar!