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  • Writer's pictureLucy Trieshmann

Airport Security: Medical Carry-ons and IV Supplies

I recently flew with my intravenous medication and supplies in tow for the first time. I was incredibly anxious leading up to the flight because I found little information online. I needed to bring several 1500ml sterile bags of liquid, syringes, port-a-cath needles, and a whole host of otherwise forbidden items. Through quite a bit of research, and even more trial and error, I managed to navigate my flying experience fairly smoothly. Free Medical Bag

Double check before heading to the airport, but most airlines in North America and Europe allow passengers to bring an additional bag of medical supplies free of charge. The bag must exclusively hold medical items in order to qualify. As with all medical supplies, you’ll want to carry the bag on the plane with you instead of checking it to make sure it stays temperature controlled, safe, and easily accessible. I packed my supplies in a backpack that slipped over the handles of my main carry-on, but in the future, I’ll use a hard-sided bag for extra protection. When you get to the front of the line, make sure to tell the TSA agent that one of your bags holds medical supplies – especially specify if it has needles or other sharp objects Liquids

For medically necessary liquids like nutritional supplements, medications, and IV supplies, travelers are allowed to bring quantities greater than the usual 3oz rule in their medical bag. You don’t have to put them in zip top bags, either, but you do need to alert the agent that you have them. TSA agents may not open sterile containers for examination, so the agent swabbed the outside of my sterile items and examined my personal carry-on, as well.


If you’re traveling within the United States, TSA does not require that you travel with pills in their original prescription bottles. However, rules for certain drugs vary by state, so be sure to check those requirements before leaving. Keeping the pills in their original bottles and bringing along your empty pill organizer is probably the safest choice. Sharps

Unused or used sharps are allowed in both your medical bag and carry-on. Used needles must be in a sharps container or other hard-sided box. Make sure to tell the agent examining your bag that you have them. If you are bringing unused syringes, you also must have the medication you use them for with you. Doctor’s Note

The jury is still out on whether a doctor’s note is necessary for domestic air travel. I opted to bring one to be on the safe side. My doctor simply listed the items I was bringing, stated their medical necessity, and signed it on his office’s letterhead. The TSA agent didn’t look at or ask for it, but I felt better having it on hand just in case.


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