Carrying meds overseas

This item appears on page 42 of the May 2008 issue.

At the suggestion of Kathy McIntosh of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, ITN asked readers the following questions.

How do you pack your prescription medications? If you use handy, generic pill cases, has it ever been a problem at the airport? What was the result? Please mention whence and where you were flying and approximately when that was. Have you ever asked an authority (at the airport or in government) about keeping pills in a pill case or other unlabeled container? What were you told?

Responses appear below (followed by federal guidelines). Have something to add? Write to Carrying Meds Overseas, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews. com (include the address at which you receive ITN).

I always keep my prescriptions in their original containers when traveling, along with a copy of the doctor’s prescription paperwork.

I teach English to university students in China and it requires either a 6-month or one-year contract, therefore I take all the medicine I will need during those times. I taught English in Changchun, China, February-July 2004 and February-July 2005, each time with a stop in Beijing, and in Yantai, China, January ’06-January ’07, again with a stop in Beijing.

In addition, from 1997 to 2006 I traveled to Great Britain; North and South Viet Nam; France; the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary; Italy, and South Korea.

With the exception of Viet Nam, on all these trips neither my checked baggage nor my carry-on was examined.

When traveling for pleasure I always have just a carry-on bag. The reason that my bag was searched in San Francisco on my return from Viet Nam was I had so little luggage that the agent and her supervisor were suspicious that my sister (traveling with me) and I were “drug mules” and had carried something more into Viet Nam than what we had come home with.

For my lengthy stays in China, especially the one-year assignment, I had enough prescription bottles of four separate medications to last the entire time. My pharmacist suggested that I put the prescriptions in as few containers as possible. If there was any extra space in a container, he would fill it with cotton so that the pills would not shake and make noise.

A few of the other teachers had their medications mailed to them every three months. They were cautioned not to have the package labeled as containing “drugs.”

I would never travel with unidentified medication. If I even take a decongestant along, I cut out the label on the package and put the medication and label in a baggie. This leaves more space in my carry-on.

Marilyn Myers

Friday Harbor, WA

I returned from a 2-month trip around the world (on airlines of Star Alliance) the day before Christmas Eve 2007. I traveled for 61 days, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, and covered six destinations (Germany, South Africa, Zambia, Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands).

I had purchased an 8.5"x11"x4" zippered case from Magellan’s (800/962-4943, which could hold a 2-month supply of my 10 prescriptions in their original pharmacy bottles, including one 10-ounce bottle of a skin lotion. Each medicine bottle bore the full (Kaiser) prescription on the label.

Enough room remained in the case to also hold two plastic pill organizers. That way, I could count out a week’s supply at a convenient time rather than have to fiddle with every pill bottle twice a day.

I carried this medicine case in my carry-on shoulder bag. When we passed through security, usually I would take the medicine case out of my shoulder bag and place it separately on the conveyor so that the contents were more obvious on the viewing screen.

On the occasions when I did not do this, the inspector would spend more time examining the image on the screen, but only twice was I asked to open the lid of the meds case for a closer look.

Once, the bottle of lotion attracted attention until the security inspector took note of the prescription label and waved me on. Another time, a young and inexperienced inspector demanded to see “a letter from the doctor” for the lotion until I pointed out that the prescription label was on the bottle. That settled it.

Interesting note — in Australia, ALL baggage was x-rayed on arrival as well as on departure, even on certain domestic flights. They are very concerned over the Southeast Asian drug trade and are on the lookout for food and agricultural contraband from other regions of the country.

Peter Klatt

Berkeley, CA

My wife and I are in our seventies and have traveled, both independently and with tour and cruise companies, to 48 countries worldwide, most of them during the last 20 years. In 2007 we were in Austria, the USVI and British Virgin Islands, Japan, Viet Nam and Cambodia.

The tour companies usually advise carrying medications in their original containers and bringing copies of the prescriptions. Except for medications in tubes, we have never carried the original containers because our prescription service provides 90-day supplies of pills in containers four to five times larger than necessary.

Instead, we count out the pills we need for the duration of the trip plus an extra week, then put them into small bottles which we had received with samples from our doctor. With our PC, we print adhesive labels with either of our names and the pills’ names, strengths and expiration dates and stick these on the bottles.

We always carry the medications in our carry-on backpacks. My wife also carries the pills we both need during the flights in a small pillbox in her purse. We have never been questioned about our medications, neither abroad nor when returning through U.S. Customs.

Albin Brandstetter

Springfield, OR

Recent trips include Los Angeles-Hong Kong-Kunming-Guilin-H.K.-L.A. in January ’06; L.A.-Chicago-Frankfurt-Tallinn-Moscow-Frankfurt-L.A. in August ’06, and L.A.-Frankfurt-Bombay-Rajkot-Delhi-L.A. in November ’07.

I take about 10 meds daily, and when traveling I carry approximately 10 to 15 more prescribed and nonprescribed precautionary meds. On trips to mosquito-prone areas, I take antimalarial drugs as well. All of these go in my carry-on inside a small, collapsible lunch bag/cooler. Security has looked at it but never questioned me.

For my prescriptions, my local pharmacy will provide, at my request, small bottles. (Mail-order prescription bottles are ridiculously large.) By freezing the bottles, I can pull the labels off and place them on old smaller ones I’ve saved. I keep the pharmacy printouts in my checked bag.

For years I have carried medical kits containing sterilized needles plus a yearly doctor’s update on a prescription form stating they are for my personal use in a travel emergency. Since the TSA restrictions, I have placed them in my checked luggage.

This presents a problem for traveling light, since I can no longer take just a carry-on. I would like to hear the experiences of others, in this regard.

Barbara Virden

Santa Ana, CA

My wife has rheumatoid arthritis and is on medication called Enbril. It comes in a syringe and has to be refrigerated at 35°-45°F. She takes the injection once a week.

The drug company has provided us with a labeled carrying case with dry ice and some sort of gel so that the medication is kept at the desired temperature. It is recommended that we request the airline staff keep this medication in the aircraft galley’s refrigerator as soon as we get on the plane.

I have gone on the Internet looking for federal guidelines regarding the security procedures and have found no clear-cut mention of carrying a medication in a syringe on board a flight. We do have a doctor’s prescription and memo as well as the drug company’s elaborate write-up and procedures.

I would like to hear from any ITN readers who have a similar problem and/or experience in carrying this drug on an overseas flight, which could last 10 hours or longer.

Faz Ulla

San Jose, CA

In July 2002 I started planning a 2003 trip around the world. One of the problems was figuring out how to carry 56 days worth of pills when I was then taking 23 per day, some of them BIG.

I can’t open childproof containers, so when I buy aspirin I ask the pharmacist to open the bottle for me. When I get home, I transfer the pills to a prescription bottle and tape an aspirin label onto it. The same thing would work for the trip. I started collecting containers with snap or screw tops.

When I had a goodly supply of odd sizes, I renewed all my prescriptions and started counting 60 into each container. (To be cautious, I planned on taking 60 days worth of each prescription.) When I found a container that was exactly the right size for that pill, I put a Post-it® note on it with the prescription name and number and dumped the pills back into their original container. Then I went on to the next pill.

Of course, some things just wouldn’t fit. For the calcium, I discovered a brand and size that would hold the 120 “horse pills” I needed. I bought two, steamed off the label on the second one and repackaged the glucosamine and chondroiten (since the pills were the same size). If you can steam off the labels on both the “from” and “to” containers, repackaging is safe enough.

When I had all my prescription containers lined up, I went to the pharmacist and asked him to fill each with the drug named on the Post-it® and put his label on each container. He was willing.

The only problem was one of my heart pills was so tiny that his label was too big for the container. With some judicious trimming, he managed to get the required information visible. A cooperative family pharmacist is essential for this sort of thing.

Kit Stewart

Sequim, WA

I would like to share with you the way I carry my pills, bearing in mind that the TSA at this time does not require but only recommends that pills (nonprescription as well as prescription) be labeled.

I use plastic receptacles with screw caps, which prevents the top of each from coming off by itself. I don’t use a separate bottle for each medicine but put all the pills cozily together in several receptacles. Over the years, I have never had a problem with this since, so far, all the medications my wife and I use have come in dissimilar shapes and/or colors.

As I have many different-size containers to choose from, I make sure that each one is filled to the top. To prevent the tablets or capsules from moving even a little inside each bottle and thus getting broken or pulverized, I cover the top of the medicines loosely with cotton (covering it too tightly may crush the pills).

For our purpose, the daily pill holders/dispensers sold in drugstores are inadequate.

Although I never have been hassled upon departure from the U.S., a problem conceivably might arise upon arrival at an overseas airport, where a Customs agent may want to see our medicines, either to annoy us or to make sure we are not carrying forbidden drugs.

Fortunately, we have never been checked. As a matter of fact, I never have been concerned about it.

As far as buying medicines overseas is concerned, we don’t take any copies of prescriptions along. We just pack sufficient extra pills/capsules, etc., of each kind to ensure that we will have enough if we are unavoidably delayed when returning to the U.S.

If you happen to run out of medicines, there are two possibilities:

1. you may be in a country where you can buy most drugs without a doctor’s order or

2. you may have to see a doctor to get a prescription.

Whatever you have to do, be sure to get the correct medication. Knowing the generic name and the dosage will get you far. However, keep in mind that some overseas brand-name drugs have the same name but a formulation different from their U.S. counterpart.

If you have to carry needles for injection, it is wise to have an explanatory letter from your doctor, in the hope that the foreign Customs agent will be able to read it.

Philip Wagenaar, M.D.

Contributing Editor

In traveling to 80-plus countries I have always put all my meds into one or two containers. I have never had an inquiry.

In January ’08, however, I was stopped on Emirates because I had an insulin syringe in my see-through baggie. The agent took me on board before all the other passengers so the captain could approve my carrying the syringe on board. Once he saw my insulin, he waved me to my seat.

Emirates was very courteous and even offered to refrigerate my insulin, something U.S. carriers have never been willing to do for me.

Dr. Norbert Brockman

San Antonio, TX

I always pack my two to three weeks of prescription meds in a generic pill case and place it in my carry-on purse in plain sight, each time wondering whether I will be questioned by airport security.

In the last 10 years I have traveled to Bolivia, Peru (twice), Guatemala (three times), Costa Rica (two times), Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico (five times), Prague (twice), South Africa, France and Scotland.

Never once has any authority shown the slightest interest, going or coming.

Sheila Monk

Richland, MO

Regarding carrying meds on flights, I called the Transportation Security Administration (866/289-9673) in November ’06 and was told by their rep, regarding flights in the U.S., “You can carry a small pillbox with medicine for the day. Bring a list of your medications. You also can carry a 7- or 14-day pillbox with a list of the medications. You may carry as many 7- or 14-day pillboxes as necessary.”

I type the list of medications and tape it to the bottom of my pillboxes. I have traveled overseas twice following these instructions. No one has ever checked my medications, but I would have problems if the meds were confiscated, so I follow the rules.

Dot Vaniel

McKees Rocks, PA

Over the years, as various health problems have appeared, I’ve taken increasing amounts of medication. I keep them in organizing pillboxes to keep track of them. I refill the pillboxes once a week.

I’ve done a fair amount of traveling over the last 15 years and have taken various approaches to carrying medication. For short trips (one week or less) to the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada and Western Europe (England, France), I just take my pillboxes. I’ve never been questioned or had any problems.

For longer trips or trips to more exotic locations, I take the warnings to heart and bring all the prescription bottles with me, using them to refill the pillboxes once a week, as usual. From 1996 to 2001, my destinations have included Thailand, Southeast Asia, Turkey and Tanzania/Zanzibar. Again, no one ever questioned me about the pillboxes.

In 2003 I made a 3-week trip to China/Thailand. By this time, I was taking six different medications and didn’t want to pack all those bottles. However, in a post-9/11 world I worried about problems.

I bought a small notebook to use as a travel diary. I peeled the labels off the bottles and stuck them in the back pages of the notebook. Then I took a 4-week supply (just in case) of all my meds, put them all in one bottle and just refilled my pillboxes as needed. Fortunately, all the pills were different shapes and colors. This might not have worked if there were a lot of little white pills.

By the way, that China trip was in the middle of the SARS epidemic and they were checking people’s temperatures at many airports. When I changed planes in Hong Kong on my way home, I was running a fever (bronchitis, not SARS), and I was forced to spend a few days in a Hong Kong hospital. I was very glad to have my extra pills with me, because I could be sure of getting the right meds and I didn’t have to pay hospital prices for medication.

Bari Olevsky

Malden, MA

I take several prescription medicines every day, small pills, and have always carried them in the “day of the week” plastic containers, using two or three one-week sets. I have never brought any info on the prescriptions with me.

I also have a transparent zipper bag in which I have small quantities of nonprescription and three prescription medicines that I might in some eventuality have to use. I have taken the precaution of keeping those items, especially the prescription pain reliever (only 10 pills), in their prescription bottles, even if the dates on those bottles are old ones.

However, I have NEVER been questioned about any of these, even though they are in my carry-on and plainly visible. I visited Argentina and Chile in early 2008. In 2007 I went to northern India. I also have been to China, Portugal, the Azores and Brazil. I have never asked an authority about this issue, except once. . . .

I am a Traveler’s Aid volunteer at Washington Dulles airport, and in October ’07 I had a call from someone who had to carry human growth hormone for treatment of a disabled daughter. She asked if it would be stolen in checked baggage, as it has a high street value. I believe it may have been a liquid preparation, which added to her concern.

On her behalf, I talked to one of the TSA supervisors and, as best as I recall, he said that her plan to carry the prescription with her and to specifically call the screeners’ attention to it would be fine. I clearly remember that he didn’t see any problem with it or any need to arrive extra early. (The woman’s traveling with her physically affected daughter may have justified her carrying the meds.)

By the way, I found a great pillbox at the Samsonite Company Store (503/667-5043) among the Columbia Gorge Premium Outlets in Troutdale, Oregon.

The lids on other day-of-the-week medicine containers easily pop open, so I would put each in a snack-size zip-lock bag, but this new one-week pillbox has an attractive leather wraparound cover that snaps tight. No way can those little pills escape.

Inside is the regular 7-days-of-the-week plastic bar with a lid that opens for each day. Two gripper snaps secure the cover, and the plastic bar is glued into the leather wrapper so it can’t be removed.

Embossed with the name Buxton®, it’s sold in different colors for $7.95 each. I bought two and want to buy two more.

Donna H. Sandin

Reston, VA

This has worked for me every time. Before I leave home, I count out the exact number of prescription pills I will need for the trip plus a few extra sleeping pills, some painkillers and vitamins and put them all together in a plastic baggie which I close tightly with a twist tie.

Antimalarial pills and other prescriptions that I probably won’t need are kept in their containers with cotton in the top to keep them from wandering.

The “oddballs” go in the suitcase and the “regulars” in the carry-on.

I have carried pills like this on 40-plus trips and have never once had a problem. Even with the new security regulations, no one has questioned me or asked to see the original bottles.

Ellen Jacobson

Centennial, CO

I count out prescription pills, vitamins, calcium and ibuprofen for the number of days of the trip plus one extra day. I put all of them in a clear plastic baggie and put that in my carry-on. I’ve done this in the U.S., Europe, Mexico and Central America for years and have never had anyone say a word.

I’ll admit I hedged my bets this year to Croatia with a second set in my checked luggage.

Martha Jo Morehouse

Glendale, CA

I travel to France a couple times a year; my most recent trip was in October ’07. I have several prescriptions plus vitamins that I take. No way would I consider taking the prescription bottles with me.

What I do is count out the number of pills I need for the days that I will be gone and add a couple extra. I dump them all in a zip-lock bag.

My prescriptions come by insurance mail-order service, so I have a printed form. I just make a copy of it, put it in the zip-lock bag and put the bag in my handbag.

I have never had anyone look at or question this in any way. I suspect that only an inexperienced security person would question it. If it did happen, I would ask for a supervisor and NICELY discuss it with them.

Joan N. Grace

Asheville, NC

I pack our daily vitamins and prescription medicines in 2½"x3" plastic zip-lock bags. One can buy them at The Container Store (phone 888/266-8246,, at stamp and coin shops and probably at hobby stores.

In each little bag I put the pills necessary for one day, then I divide the bags into two piles, putting each pile of bags into a larger bag. My husband, Dick, puts half (one bag) in his suitcase and I carry the other half in my suitcase, in case our luggage is misplaced. On the plane, in our hand-carry luggage we carry enough pill packets for the flight and the next day.

We do not carry original bottles nor prescriptions. We bring the generic a.m./lunch/p.m./bed pillboxes with us to divide up pills for the day at the hotel.

We have never been stopped because of this nor even questioned. We have never asked an authority if it was acceptable. We have traveled extensively since 9/11, and whether it was to Antarctica, Iran, the Caucasus, the Persian Gulf or Latin America, we have had NO problems.

And now I want to give a big ‘Thank you’ to ITN for printing the “3-1-1 TSA rules explained” article by Philip Wagenaar (Dec. ’07, pg. 70).

Dick has to thicken all his liquids, so we carry a thickening product (instant cornstarch) whenever we travel. We have it in individual packets and also in large cans.

Once we open a can, we put the powder in a large zip-lock bag. Now, I don’t know what “drugs” look like, but a bag of white powder would seem to me to be suspicious, but, again, no one has ever questioned it.

Before a trip at Christmastime, I made a photocopy of the ITN article, highlighting the important parts about why liquids can be carried through security. I put this and a photocopy of my husband’s doctor’s prescription into a big bag along with sample packets of the thickener. Then we mixed up an 8-ounce bottle of thickened water and put it in a separate bag inside the larger bag.

We went through the Washington Dulles airport and the Las Vegas airport. In Washington the “checker” asked for her supervisor, who looked at our collection of papers and the water and said, “Fine.” In Las Vegas the “checker” said, “Thanks for highlighting everything for us.”

Wow, does that make traveling easier! Before having this article, as soon as we got to our gate I’d go into the bathroom and fill up a couple of cups of water, then come back to our seats and get out my white “powder,” mix it into the water and, using a funnel, pour it into the bottle. I’d get lots of strange looks, but no one ever asked “What are you doing?” Thanks for the helpful information, ITN.

Betty Podol

Reston, VA

I use one 3"x3" zip-lock bag for each medication and these work well for me. If you can’t find these bags, check your hardware store, where they’re sometimes used in selling screws and other small items.

I fill my prescriptions at Walgreens. The papers attached to each order have a receipt label for that pill. It’s a peel-off variety and is a duplicate of what is on the bottle. It fits perfectly on the little plastic bag. If your pharmacy does not have this type of receipt, you can do as I did years ago and ask them to give you duplicate labels. For over-the-counter meds, I think you could make your own labels.

When I will be traveling for several days in a row, I often put the variety of a.m. and p.m. pills in a pillbox in my purse so they are easily available en route.

However you travel, always keep your meds in your carry-on so they can’t be lost, even if your suitcase is. Another thing I do is make a list of my meds, including the milligrams of each, what each is for and the usage directions, and carry it with me.

My travel has been to European countries over the last 20 years. Never have my prescriptions been looked at, let alone commented on or questioned.

Suzanne Schradle

Mahtomedi, MN

When I get a prescription filled, I get a sticker on the receipt that contains the same information that is on the prescription bottle. I attach it to a zip-lock bag or a much smaller container and put in only the amount of medications I will need for the trip.

Including on my last trip, to Rome, I haven’t had any problems going through security.

Ethel Peterson

Richfield, MN

My solution is to ask the pharmacist for an extra label for each prescription. Then I pack the pills in separate small 2"x2" zip-lock bags and stick a label on each bag. Occasionally, I find a pharmacist who has the bags and will do the whole works for me. The bags are pretty cheap at less than one cent each.

Bob Merriam

Owensboro, KY

Every year, the pharmacy becomes a bigger part of our luggage. Convenience and saving space are important. Onto the plane, my wife, Pat, and I carry a week’s supply of meds in plastic daily dispenser cases. Refills for them go in the checked luggage.

Pat found 3"x5" zip-top plastic bags (Bagettes) at a Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts (888/739-4120, www.joann.con) needlework store. A box of 200 cost less than two cents apiece.

We count out how many pills we’ll need for the trip and put them in one of the reclosable bags. A small card with the name of the med and its dosage also goes inside. Flattened and zipped, all those little bags go into a bigger one from our kitchen. That, in turn, goes into the suitcase, taking surprisingly little space.

We have never been questioned about our medications. It’s obvious from the quantities and presentation that we’re not smuggling, just carrying what we need for our own use.

Don Gerber

Stockton, CA

We have to use a mail-order pharmacy, and their bottles are for 90-day supplies and often bigger than needed even for that many pills. They do not have smaller bottles available.

I pack my pills in snack-sized plastic bags and label each with the name of the medication. I also carry a copy of my online order form showing what prescriptions have been filled. In the U.S. and on overseas travels I have never had any questions about my medications.

However, when I called British Air in December ’07 about their carry-on policy and mentioned the large pill bottles, I was advised to put them in my checked baggage! I would never do that, nor should anyone else. There is too great a risk of theft or loss.

Years ago, a fellow traveler had her carry-on bag stolen at Heathrow and she had to find a doctor and pharmacist and have everything filled there. Since then, I have always carried with me a list of all medications (their names, amounts, etc.) in case they are lost or there is an accident and the medical personnel need to know what I take.

Judy Burr

Kensington, MD

Several years ago I devised a method to carry my prescription medicines overseas.

Initially, I used No. 1 manila coin envelopes purchased at an office supply store, but I now use very small-bead zip-lock bags which I get at a craft store.

I put in each small bag my morning pills for one day and in another bag my evening pills for one day. Then I put all of the a.m. bags in a larger zip-lock bag with a piece of paper saying “a.m.” and do likewise for all my p.m. meds. (When I used the coin envelopes, I just wrote “a.m.” or “p.m.” on the front of each.)

I fill an extra set of a.m. and p.m. envelopes to use during flights and put these in my little backpack, which is more accessible during the flight than my carry-on, which I place in the overhead bin. I always make up a couple of extra a.m. and p.m. ones, in case of flight delays.

This method has worked beautifully for me for 50-plus flights. I have never had a problem with or been questioned about my “drugs.”

Donna Seymour

Arlington, VA

We would have a bag full of bottles if we carried all our pills in their original containers, which are usually for 90-day supplies.

We each take two of these large containers and label one “morning” and the other “evening.” What each of us takes in the morning goes into one, and everything each of us takes in the evening goes into the other. Since the pills are different shapes or colors, there is no problem identifying them.

We have moved through probably a hundred security checks and no one has ever looked at anything yet.

Merle D. Crow

Honolulu, HI

I am a diabetic with high blood pressure, and I take various medications three times a day. We travel overseas at least twice a year, and for the past seven or eight years I’ve carried our medications through the U.S., Europe, Africa and so forth in the following way, without any problems.

In quantities of 1,000 at a time, I purchase little 2"x2" zip-lock plastic bags from U.S. Plastic Corp. (; click on “bags and packaging”). Using them on a daily basis, that’s about a year’s supply, for me.

I pack a number of baggies with the proper pills, adding any vitamins, to make up “breakfast,” “lunch” and “evening” packets.

I put all the “breakfast” packets in a larger zip-lock bag and label it using a Sharpie ink pen. I do the same for “lunch” and “dinner.” I pack all of these in my carry-on luggage.

We have had our carry-ons hand-searched in the past, due to carrying electrical adapters and such, but no one has ever commented on our pill packets. It works for us. We do, however, carry copies of our prescriptions, just in case, although we’ve never been asked to show them.

In fact, I find it easier to make up these pill packets even for when I’m not traveling. I just grab a set of three every morning and carry them in my shirt pocket so I always have my medications handy for the entire day.

Robert R. Rann

Huntington Beach, CA

The Transportation Security Administration rules and recommendations regarding carrying prescription medications in carry-on baggage apply to all domestic and international flights departing airports in the U.S. However, the Department of State recommends following different rules for flights from or to the U.S. and between other countries. Following are the rules of the two departments.


• All medications (pills, injectables or homeopathic) and associated supplies (syringes, infusers, etc.) in your carry-on are allowed on board once they have been screened. This applies to medications in daily dosage containers, as well.

• You are encouraged to ensure that medications are in their original packaging, with professionally printed labels or pharmaceutical labels. This is a recommendation to assist travelers with the screening process; however, this is not a requirement.

• Medications (prescription medicines, diabetic glucose treatments and over-the-counter medicinal products, i.e., Tylenol®, Pepto-Bismol®, ointments, etc.) that come in liquid, gel and/or aerosol form in containers greater than three ounces must be declared at the checkpoint for additional screening. If you fail to make this declaration, the item likely will be removed, barring extenuating circumstances.

• You should carry on only the medications that are required to be available during your itinerary. This includes items like gel-filled freezer packs or nonprescription liquid or gel medications, such as saline solution or KY-Jelly, required for medical necessity.

• For carrying injectable medication (such as insulin for diabetes), the TSA encourages you to ensure that the medication is properly labeled with a pharmaceutical label or a professionally printed label identifying the medication or a manufacturer’s name. Medical documentation regarding your medical condition may be presented to the screener to help inform him or her of your situation, but this documentation is not required; also, it will not exempt you from the screening process.

• Medications and related supplies that are carried through a checkpoint are normally x-rayed. If you refuse, you will not be permitted to carry your medications and related supplies into the sterile area. However, as a customer service, the TSA now allows you the option of requesting a visual inspection of your medication and associated supplies. You must request a visual inspection before the screening process begins; otherwise, your medications and supplies will undergo x-ray inspection.

If you would like to take advantage of this option, have your medication and associated supplies separated from your other property and in a separate pouch/bag when you approach the screener at the walk-through metal detector. Request the visual inspection and hand your medication bag to the screener.

Ensure that containers holding medications are not too densely filled. Large amounts of medications that are not for immediate use should be put in checked baggage.

In order to prevent contamination or damage to medication and associated supplies and/or fragile medical materials, you will be asked at the security checkpoint to display, handle and repack your own medication and associated supplies during the visual inspection.

• The limit of one carry-on and one personal item (purse briefcase or computer case) does not apply to medical supplies, equipment, mobility aids and/or assistive devices carried by and/or used by a person with a disability.

• Available online is a PDF brochure for airline passengers entitled “Permitted and Prohibited Items.” Contact the TSA with specific questions at 866/289-9673 or e-mail



• Carry a letter from your physician describing your medical conditions plus prescriptions for any drugs (including their generic names).

• Leave drugs in their original containers. Make sure they are clearly labeled.

• Check with the foreign country’s embassy in the U.S. regarding what medications are considered legal and illegal and in what quantities.

• The site’s webpage “Customs and Import Restrictions” mentions, “Many countries have restrictions on what may be brought into the country, including food, pets. . . and medications. Even over-the-counter medications may be prohibited in some countries.”


• Posted on the Australian website is the recommendation that you NOT carry anyone else’s medications, not even a friend’s (even one on the same plane), as in some places you can be arrested when going through Customs.

• A. U.S. Customs & Border Protection spokeswoman stated that when crossing any U.S. border with prescription drugs that are labeled, the name on the bottle must match the name on the travel document (passport, ticket, etc.).