How Should I Deal With the New Airport Security?
I wear both an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which in the past have set off alarms in airport magnetometers, resulting in pat-down searches. Now, with major airports using the new X-ray equipment for screening passengers, will my devices be harmed by the new scanners? Should I request the more invasive pat-down? Shirley Lundin, Indian Head Park, Illinois
Christy L. Parkin, MSN, RN, CDE, responds:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has recently implemented new screening procedures for passengers involving full-body scanning and sometimes pat-downs. The body checks are for people who opt out of using the new imaging scanners and traditional metal detectors, and for those who cause an alarm to sound when going through the metal detectors. There is still confusion about the new TSA measures.
Your best defense is to be prepared. It is important to know your rights. You are permitted by law to wear your insulin pump and CGM system through security. Print a copy of the most up-to-date information from the TSA website, and take it with you. Allow plenty of time to pass through airport security.
If you go through a scanner and an irregularity is picked up, you should be inspected only at the site of the irregularity (for example, your pump site). If you are concerned about going through a metal detector or scanner with your pump, notify the security officer that you are wearing a pump and would like a full-body pat-down and a visual inspection of your pump instead. Tell the officer that the pump can't be removed because it is attached with a catheter (tubing) under the skin. If a screener tries to remove your pump or CGM system, ask for a supervisor to intervene.
Product guidelines for some devices suggest that pump-wearers should not go through the scan. If in doubt before traveling, call your pump and CGM company, and ask for the most recent position statement on your particular device. Obviously, you don't want to damage your expensive electronic equipment by going through a body scanner. The only alternative at this time is a pat-down.
The American Diabetes Association is pursuing clarifications on and modifications to the new TSA guidelines, and will post information here as it becomes available. While some travelers have reported that people with insulin pumps are undergoing an extensive check of all their carry-on bags, not just medical supplies, this is no longer official TSA policy, as a result of ADA advocacy. If you believe you have been subjected to this or other unfair treatment because of your diabetes, please contact 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) and ask to speak with a legal advocate.