Easy Travel Tips When You're Flying With Medication

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Things to consider when flying with medication

Easy Travel Tips When You're Flying With Medication

The Transportation Security Administration lets you bring as much medication as you need on domestic and international flights, either packed in checked baggage or in your carry-on. Familiarizing yourself with TSA's guidelines will ensure a hassle-free trip through security.

Follow these TSA rules for medication

The TSA grants travelers latitude when it comes to medication, as long as you work within their guidelines:

  • You can take unlimited amounts of prescription or over-the-counter medication in solid or pill form in your carry-on bag or checked luggage. Medication in your carry-on must be screened as you pass through TSA security. 
  • You don't have to carry medication in original prescription bottles. Documenting your prescription isn't necessary, but TSA recommends labeling all medications to speed up the screening process. When not using original containers, it's a good idea to pack the prescription leaflets showing your name and the medication in case there's any questions, although it's not required.  
  • You can take liquid or spray medication in reasonable quantities that exceed the TSA's 3.4-ounce liquid limit in your carry-on.   
  • You don't need to carry liquid medication in a sealable plastic bag in your carry-on, but you must notify the TSA officer that you have liquid medication and present it for screening.
  • Present any medical accessories, such as syringes and ice packs, at the start of your screening. Prepare to open any bottles or containers if asked.
  • You can request a personal inspection of your medication in lieu of an X-ray screening.
  • The TSA invites travelers or family members of travelers with disabilities or illnesses to contact TSA Cares passenger support at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours before departing to ask medical-related travel questions.

Breathe easy when you pack your inhaler

You can include an inhaler in your carry-on bag. Like other liquid medications, your inhaler can exceed 3.4-ounces to supply your needs during your flight or trip. If your medication sets off alarms while being X-rayed or tested for traces of explosives, expect additional screening. You might set off the alarm if you've handled your meds after shooting practice or engaging in a hobby where you're exposed to chemicals or accelerants. In some cases, the TSA agent might not allow the medication on the flight.

Packing your pills

You shouldn't encounter any problems during security screening when bringing pills or tablets through security – the TSA allows you to bring unlimited quantities of solid medication in your carry-on bag or luggage. There's one exception to TSA's lenient pill rule: Medical marijuana isn't legal under federal law, so you'll be referred to law enforcement if the TSA agent suspects there's some in your possession.

Traveling with oxygen

If you require supplemental oxygen, you won't be able to bring liquid or compressed oxygen on the plane either as checked or carry-on baggage. Instead, check with your airline to arrange in-flight oxygen service. You can bring a portable oxygen concentrator (POC), however. The machines concentrate oxygen from the ambient air and don't pose a hazard like bottled oxygen. Be sure to bring spare batteries to last for the duration of the flight.

Considerations for international flights

Things can get a little tricky when bringing OTC and prescription medications into a foreign country. The Bureau of Consular Affairs recommends getting a letter from your doctor for the medications you need to have with you. Read about the prescription and nonprescription drug policies of your destination on the bureau's website. It will give you a heads up if you need to carry your meds in their original packaging or provide a notarized translation of your prescription in the country's native language.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.