How to manage airport security with an insulin pump and CGM

traveling with your insulin pump and CGMIn May of 2012, after reading about a friend having problems getting their insulin pump through security at a US airport, I did some research on the subject.  Should you put your pump through the x-ray machine? Can you wear your CGM through a full-body scanner? There were a lot of questions in 2012 and there still are in 2018 so I reached out to a few friends in the industry to see if things have changed at all.  Here is what you need to know when you are traveling with an insulin pump or CGM.

If you wear a Dexcom®

The Dexcom® G5 is cleared to take through metal detectors, be hand-wanded and be worn during flights. There are a few situations to be concerned about, however.

NEVER put your receiver or extra sensors through an x-ray machine.  Ask the security personnel to do a hand-check of the items to avoid permanent damage of these devices.

According to Dexcom®, the effects of full body scanners on CGM components have not been studied. It is therefore recommended that you do not take your Dexcom® through one.

Once you are through security and on your plane waiting for takeoff, make sure to set your app to airplane mode, keeping the bluetooth on and leave your receiver turned on.

If you use FreeStyle Libre

The Dream Big Travel Far blog contacted the people at FreeStyle and asked what the guidelines were for air travel with the Libre.  This is what they reported.

“We recommend the user notify security personnel when going through airport security screening. the user can go through X-ray machines while wearing a sensor. We recommend the reader be powered off during a flight and not used for scanning a sensor. However, the strip port on the reader can be used to take blood glucose or ketone readings during flight. Turning on the reader with the Home Button will activate the radio. The user must turn on the reader by inserting a test strip so as to not activate the radio.”

If you wear an Omnipod

Good news for Omnipod users! You can wear the pod through the metal detector, x-ray machines and full body scanners with no worry.  The PDM can also go through the X-ray. Insulet does recommend that if you are selected for a “pat down” you disclose that you are wearing the pod.

If you wear a Medtronic® insulin pump

Medtronic® insulin pumps can be worn through metal detectors and be wanded.  They should NOT be sent through x-ray machines however.

Medtronic® also notes that your sensor and transmitter must be removed if you are going through a full-body scanner. If you do not want to remove your sensor, you can ask to be pat down instead.

If you wear a Tandem® t:slim X2™ insulin pump

Tandem® t:slim X2™ can be worn through metal detectors and can be wanded.  They should not be sent through x-ray machines.

Changes in air pressure cause bubbles to form in insulin, and the related expansion can cause unintentional insulin delivery.  This is NOT a problem in the Tandem pump.

The pumping mechanism used in Tandem pumps isolates the insulin reservoir (bag) from the user line, so if bubbles are formed in the cartridge due to pressure changes, the internal bag will expand, but no insulin will be delivered to the user from the reservoir.  The only volume in line with the user at any given time is the insulin in their infusion set and cartridge tubing, and the contents of the 0.3 unit Micro-Delivery chamber.

There is no need to turn off your t:slim X2™ during takeoff or landing.  This system runs on Bluetooth which can operate during flights. If you are also using a Dexcom CGM that you are viewing with your smartphone, turn the phone on airplane mode and then turn on Bluetooth.

If you wear an Animas® insulin pump

A detailed list of where you can and cannot wear your Animas® pump can be found in my May 2012 post.

Animas® insulin pumps can be worn through metal detectors and can be wanded.  They should NOT be sent through x-ray machines.

Animas® pumps should not be worn through full-body scanners.

Click here for more tips on traveling with diabetes!

Looks Can Be Deceiving

For the past few weeks, I have been going through old photos for a variety of reasons. I came across this picture.  My young son looks so sweet and innocent.

You would think such a picture would evoke the “ahhhs” of a mother right? Wrong! I know the stories behind this precious image. I remember the many faces of this child during those long car rides that were less than sweet. 

liam asleep july 2003

It was the summer of 2003 and my mother, my sons, and I were driving across Canada to see friends and spend time with family. It truly was an amazing trip but we also had diabetes along for the ride and so the challenges were a little more. 

While driving for 8+ hours, I would read Harry Potter to my oldest son when my mom was behind the wheel. It killed time and seemed like a great idea. A four-year old who was high did not share those feelings.  At one point, that sweet little boy you see in the back seat, took a Harry Potter book and flung it across the car leaving a mark on my window.  We were done reading with him in a car for a bit.

Why was this child high? Well, it could have been the insulin that got cooked in the cooler in the trunk of the car.  It may have been the insulin pen that quit working but Mom did not realize it right away. It could have been the long hours in a car and not getting quite the right mix of long acting insulin to balance the drive. The reasons were plenty but the results were flying books and a need to pee at the most inopportune times.

He demanded that we pull over while speeding along in rush-hour traffic on a Vancouver freeway.  This resulted in the creative use of spare coffee cups and extreme gratitude that he was a boy.

Being high when traveling also meant that he demanded that we not proceed flowing  the pilot car despite being stuck in sweltering heat on an Ontario highway for hours.  We had been held up in the same spot for literally over an hour and he had not needed to use the washroom during that time but the second the truck came and allowed us to proceed, my sweet little angel began “the pee dance” and was adamant that we had to pull back over NOW!

When asked if I would do that trip again, my answer was always the same…in a heart beat. I didn’t mind having a 4 and 8-year old in the car with me for hours…most of the time.  We stopped and enjoyed parks to break up the days.  We met wonderful people and got a chance to see the Canadian landscape up close.  And we have memories….some very interesting memories!