Almost 44 million Americans are traveling this Thanksgiving week, and without a doubt there are going to be hassles. But people with diabetes (PWDs) have to worry about a bit more than whether you can carry on a snow globe or your favorite brand of cranberry sauce.
(Both snow globes and cranberry sauce packs are OK, says the TSA.)
Let's be honest. Many of us have walked through the regular metal detectors (or sent D-children through) or have disconnected and sent the equipment through the x-ray machines. But some manufacturer guidelines recommend against it.
Quite a few studies recently are questioning the wisdom of sending insulin pumps and CGMs through airport security. A recent report in the journal Diabetes Technologies & Therapeutics outlines some information regarding airport full-body scanners that people using insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitors will want to know. The authors write that D-devices are at risk of electromagnetic malfunction if they're taken through the full body airport scanners, computer-assisted tomography (CAT) scanners, x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scanners.
The good news: These D-devices aren't affected by the traditional walk-through airport metal detectors.
Word is some airports throughout the U.S. are quietly removing the more radiation-prone scanners from busier airports and replacing them with "backscatter imaging" machines that are said to emit less radiation.
How do you avoid these potentially harmful airport devices? PWDs can present a travel letter from their physician to avoid going through, requesting a full body pat-down or using the traditional metal detectors if that's possible. From practical experience, we know some TSA agents will wave you right through, while others insist on swabbing the pump and some get downright angry and insistent that you - and your technology - go through the scanners.
Generally-speaking, the TSA guidelines provide some vague answers about what PWDs are and are not supposed to do when dealing with airport security. We tried to get more detail and an inside look at the security process to help with holiday travel, but sadly there weren't many answers to be had.
We asked fellow D-Community member, D-Mom and broadcast journalist Stacey Simms to check out the situation for us.
Stacey's 7-year old son Benny has been living with type 1 for the past five years. She trekked to her own local airport in North Carolina, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, to see how open the TSA would be in answering some questions about traveling with diabetes over the holidays. Not very, but nevertheless, here's Stacey's "on the scene" video report for us:
For now, it's on us to know our rights and to insist on correct treatment. The American Diabetes Association has some tips and suggestions for PWDs about rights, too.
Yes, it can be exhausting and frustrating, especially around the holidays. The expert advice is about the same as for everyone this time of year: Get there early, stay calm and try to keep a sense of humor.
We'll keep trying to get more information from the TSA. At this rate, maybe they'll have a comment by Spring Break...