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Air Travel With Medical Devices

Today, the Homeland Security alert was hightened to it's highest levels in response to the arrest of suspected terrorists in London who reputedly planned to blow up flights from London to the USA using liquid explosives. All carry-on baggage are prohibited, excluding prescription medication. Even iPods and portable electronic equipment are prohibited since they are among the devices suspected of potentially harboring components for bomb-making.

This came to mind today when Michael Rack, a sleep specialist blogger, referenced a how-to article from Sleep Review Magazine for patients suffering from sleep apnea who require CPAP (continuous pressure airway pressure) devices while in-flight. I remember many people snoring loudly on my 20 hour flight back from Singapore a month ago who would have benefited from one, but the buzzing from the CPAP would probably have been more annoying to me.

These reccomendations are generalizable to medical devices, and I'd add to the list, a recently signed letter from your physician documenting your diagnosis and need for the device to be used while in-flight. Briefly, adapting quotes from a frequent traveller with CPAP: Holly Larkin, RPSGT, of AEIOMed, Minneapolis:

Inform the airline about using the device while onboard.
It is important to get approval to use the device onboard before arriving at the airport. Many airlines have strict policies regarding using devices while in flight, but by calling beforehand, users can minimize the hassle that is sometimes involved with using a device while flying.

Use a battery-powered device.
Battery-powered devices are recommended because these devices offer access to therapy when power is not readily available.

Bring an extension cord.
If users don't have access to a battery-powered device, they may want to bring an extension cord in case the nearest outlet to the bed is out of reach of the cord for the unit.
Enoch: An adapter for use of the airline seat outlets can help provide power if you run out of juice mid flight.

Travel with refill/replacement equipment.
Filters can get dirty, especially in places with poor air quality.
Enoch: Refills are important since you may be delayed longer than you expect, such as in times like today with the incredibly long security check lines. Also you should be prepared for delays in landing if you need to be redirected, such as the flights that couldn't land in London today, and were redirected to others in Europe.

Simplify equipment cleaning.
Larkin said that it is a good idea for patients to come prepared to clean equipment. She recommends that users bring a hanger with a clip on it to help in drying the equipment. "I take a hanger with a clip on it," Larkin said. "I take one of those with me because when you rinse out your hose or your mask, you can clip it to that and put it over the shower bar and let it dry."

Pack distilled water for humidifiers.
Keeping a small bottle of distilled water in a container is an easy way for users to carry along the water needed for humidifiers, Larkin said.
Enoch: This may not be allowed since all liquid containers are being prohibited from being brought on board. The point of bringing extra of whatever you need to maintain your device is still a good one. You may not be able to get it on board, such as getting bottled water from the stewards.

Update: Bill Quick, the Diabetes Doc, reposted some helpful Discussion Forum entries regarding medications requiring refrigeration:

- Traveling forum, entry 767: I emphatically do not suggest putting Byetta in checked luggage, not even in the thermos. There is no way to be sure that you'll get your luggage at the same time you arrive. I have had my luggage lost so many times.

- Byetta forum, entry 3752: It appears that you can bring your Byetta to the airport check-in line in any disposable carrier you want, then hand off the carrier to a friend who's not flying, and that you can plan to have someone meet you at the arrival area and have another one ready to go. Or you can do a last-minute switch, moving your carrier into your checked luggage.But also keep close track of how long your Byetta is out of refrigeration, and carry extra prescriptions so that you can buy more whereever you land (remembering of course that Byetta is available in only a few countries, so that's probably not possible if you're flying internationally).

- Byetta forum, entry 3753: Suggestion from a frequent flyer: ice baggie pen on way to airport, pitch bag at door. Drinks are available after check-in while you're waiting for flight, get ice from vender to keep pen cool, pitch before boarding plane. Get ice from attendant during flight.

As of August 16th, Medical Prosthetics have been approved:

Small amounts of Baby formula and breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling
Liquid prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket
Up to 8 oz. of liquid or gel low blood sugar treatment
Up to 4 oz. of essential non-prescription liquid medications
Gel-filled bras and similar prostethics worn for medical reasons

Tags: Healthline, health, medical, medical device, air travel, refrigeration, insulin, red810
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Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.