How can I transport my medication when I fly?

Airfare Question of the Month
by , SmarterTravel Staff
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Editor's Note: This story was originally published on January 18, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, Airfare Question of the Month, Jessica Labrencis.

Dear Jessica,

How can I transport my medication when I fly?

J.F.

Dear Reader,

The regulations affecting liquids and gels transported in carry-on bags don't apply to medication. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) permits liquid medications—prescription or over-the-counter—in both carry-on and checked bags. Over-the-counter medications include saline solution and eye drops. Containers that are three ounces or smaller can be placed in the quart-sized clear zip-top bags required for all other liquids. However, if the containers exceed three ounces, they should be declared to security agents before passing through the metal detector.

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Of course, medication in pill form is also allowed. Before the holidays, many readers emailed me to ask if day-of-the-week pill containers are allowed in carry-on bags. At the time, the TSA's website stated that medications must be labeled with the name that matches the passenger's boarding pass.

However, the TSA seems to have relaxed its rules, stating, "We recommend, but not require, that passengers bring along any supporting documentation (ID cards, letter from doctor, etc.) regarding their medication needs. We also recommend, but not require, that the label on prescription medications match the passenger's boarding pass. If the name on the prescription medication label does not match the name of the passenger, the passenger should expect to explain why to the security officers. To ensure a smooth screening process, passengers are encouraged to limit quantities to what is needed for the duration of the flight."

From this updated statement, it seems to me that day-of-the-week pill containers will be allowed, without the need to bring along each individual pill bottle. However, it wouldn't hurt to get a doctor's note confirming your name and prescriptions before flying in case you run into a particularly cautious security agent. As a side note, I recommend packing any essential medications in your carry-on bag instead of checking them. That way, even if you're separated from your bags for longer than you expect, you won't have to search for a doctor or pharmacy when you arrive at your destination.

Questions about other medical issues run far beyond transporting medication. For such queries, the TSA devotes a section of its website to travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.

 
 
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