Ostomy Travel Tips
New: Download UOAA’s
Communication Card as an aid in dealing with airline security.
In these days where extra precautions for security are being taken worldwide, it would be wise for traveling ostomates to do advance planning in order to avoid possible problems. Some suggestions are:
- Pre-cut all pouches at home, as you may wish to avoid having
scissors in your carry-on luggage (see additional
- Pack ostomy supplies in at least 2 places – carry-on and
- Take extra supplies in case you are stranded where supplies
may not be available.
- A statement from your physician stating your need for ostomy
supplies might be helpful. Also a statement advocating a private
area be used in case of an extended search.
- If traveling to a foreign country it is a good idea to have
critical ostomy information written in their language. One of
the 70 member associations of the
Ostomy Association (IOA) may be of help with this translation
as well as with locating supplies while visiting their country.
- A copy of the book “Yes
We Can” has many helpful hints and advice for traveling
and also has a dictionary of ostomy terms translated to several
different languages. There is important contact information for
resources worldwide as well as a wallet-sized statement written
in 11 languages that asks for privacy if a search is to be conducted.
- One ostomate reported a very positive result from carrying photocopies of the catalog pages displaying and explaining his equipment. When a searcher asked about the items found on a hand search, he was able to explain their function without a long conversation that would hold up others in line. Our experience has been that over time the TSA agents are much more knowledgeable and sensitive to these personal care products.
About carrying scissors on board aircraft: In the aftermath of Sept 11, 2001, pointed metal scissors were banned from carry-on baggage (they are still always allowed in checked luggage). Since then, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has relaxed the prohibition of scissors in carry-on luggage. In August 2005, TSA allowed a special exception for “ostomy scissors.” In December 2005, they relaxed the rule further to allow any metal scissors with a cutting edge no greater than four inches. It must be understood, however, that this applies only to flights departing U.S. airports, as the rules vary greatly in different countries. So, if you’re flying internationally, it’s best to avoid scissors in carry-on bags entirely. For flights departing Canadian airports, scissors were banned from carry-on baggage until around 2011, but they do allow small scissors with blades no longer than 6 cm (2.4 inches) now.
All screening at airports must be conducted in a way that treats passengers with courtesy, dignity, and respect. You may request that any personal screening be conducted in a private area. See TSA’s info on Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions.
Restrictions on liquids, gels, aerosols: On Aug 10, 2006, TSA banned all liquids, gels and aerosols from carry-on baggage, with only a few exceptions for required medications, baby formula, diabetic glucose treatments, etc. On Sept 25, 2006, they modified the rules so each passenger may carry travel-size toiletries (maximum size of each container, 100 mL or 3½ ounces) that fit comfortably in a single, one-quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag—which you must remove from your carry-on bag and place in a bin on the conveyor belt to be X-rayed separately (see TSA’s explanation of these procedures). Also, beverages and other liquids purchased in the secure area beyond the passenger screening checkpoint can be carried onto the plane. Based on these rules, you should have no difficulty carrying a 2-ounce tube of stoma paste or a few remover wipes, barrier wipes, etc. Remember that the restrictions apply only to carry-on luggage; you can pack as much as you want in your checked luggage. If you need to carry larger quantities of liquid medications, baby formula, etc. on-board the plane, they must be declared separately at the security checkpoint.
Full Body Scanners: Nearly all U.S. airports now have scanners that TSA refers to as Advanced Imaging Technology. Early use of these scanners sometimes caused embarrassing incidents for ostomates, as in a well publicized case in November 2010. Following that incident, UOAA and other organizations helped to educate the TSA on the needs of people with ostomies and other medical conditions. As a result, ostomates really have no reason to fear the scanners any more. To minimize the chance of any problem, ostomates should empty their pouch before entering the security line. The scanner may still detect your pouch. If that happens, you may be asked to wipe your hand over the outside of your clothing in the area of your ostomy, but you will not be asked to remove any clothing or expose your ostomy pouch, and it shouldn’t slow your passage through the security line by more than a few minutes. In all recent cases that we know of, ostomates have been treated respectfully. If you have any concerns about the screening process, you can call the TSA Cares Help Line at 855-787-2227.
The Transportation Security Administration, which is educating the traveling public
Aerospace Medical Association publications list - tips for airline travelers
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