What Special Concerns May Arise?
Can I speak to anyone at TSA before I travel?
Yes. TSA recently launched TSA Cares, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying. The hours of operation for the TSA Cares helpline are Monday through Friday 9 a.m.–9 p.m. EST, excluding federal holidays. Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.
Is there a discreet way I can let TSA know about my diabetes?
Yes. TSA has created an optional Disability Notification Card that you can hand to Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to inform them in a discreet manner that you have a disability, medical condition, or medical device that may affect security screening. It does not exempt you from screening, but can facilitate communication with TSOs.
How do the new full-body scanners and pat-downs impact me?
Currently, both traditional metal detectors and Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners are in use at most airports and you may be directed to either one by an officer. If AIT is available, you can request to use it instead of a metal detector. Some AIT scanners now have software eliminating passenger-specific images, so that the only images created are of a generic outline of a person like a cookie-cutter. If you choose a full pat-down or if you are subjected to additional screening because you alarm a metal detector, you have a right to have this screening done in private and with a witness of your choice. For more information on these screening procedures, see www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/index.shtm and http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/pat_downs.shtm.
If you use an insulin pump and/or continuous blood glucose monitor (CGM), you also have a choice as to whether to wear them through the scanner or during a pat-down or to remove them and request a visual inspection—which may include swabbing for explosives—of the devices. (If you have questions about the safety of wearing your devices through scanners, contact the manufacturer.) If you choose to go through a conventional metal detector and your device or any other object alarms, you will be subject to a full pat-down.
If you go through an AIT scanner and the image shows an irregularity, the type of additional screening you receive will depend on how many irregularities appear and where they are located on your body. Generally, you will receive a pat-down only on or near the area in which an irregularity was seen. For example, if you wear a pump on your right side, only that area should be examined.
If you believe that you have been treated unfairly on account of your diabetes, please contact 1-800-DIABETES and ask how you can speak with a legal advocate.
Are there additional screening procedures for individuals who use pumps and continuous blood glucose monitors?
At this time, TSA has not provided any consumer information that explains additional screening for insulin pump wearers or users of CGMs. TSA states: “If you are concerned or uncomfortable about going through the walk-through metal detector with your insulin pump, notify the Security Officer that you are wearing an insulin pump and would like a full-body pat-down and a visual inspection of your pump instead. Advise the Security Officer that the insulin pump cannot be removed because it is inserted with a catheter (needle) under the skin.”
The Association sometimes receives reports from travelers who are subject to overly intrusive screening of their insulin pumps and CGMs. While TSA does thoroughly examine these devices, which may include swabbing the devices and your hands for explosives, you should not be singled out for more intrusive screening just on the basis of using medically necessary devices. TSOs should never tell you to take off your devices or tell you that you should keep them on—it is your choice.
Can I request a visual inspection of my diabetes supplies?
Yes. You have the option of requesting a visual inspection of your insulin and other diabetes supplies rather than putting them through the X-ray. This inspection may include swabbing for explosives. Keep in mind that you must request a visual inspection before the screening process begins otherwise your supplies will undergo X-ray inspection. You should separate your supplies from your other property in a pouch or bag.
To prevent contamination or damage to medication and associated supplies and/or fragile medical materials, you should be asked at the security checkpoint to display, handle, and repack your own supplies during the visual inspection process. Any medication and/or associated supplies that cannot be cleared visually must be submitted for X-ray screening. If you refuse, you might not be permitted to carry your medications and related supplies into the sterile area.
What should I do if I experience hypoglycemia during screening?
You should immediately inform screeners if you are experiencing low blood sugar and are in need of medical assistance.
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