Many travelers who take prescription drugs worry about bringing their medications onto airplanes. While it is true that every item brought onto an airplane must be screened, you should be able to bring prescription drugs on your flight without difficulty.
Rules for Taking Prescription Drugs Through US Airport Security
In US airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows passengers to bring prescription drugs and other medically required substances, such as water or juice, with them onto the airplane. You may place medications in 3.4 ounce (100 milliliters) or smaller containers in a one-quart size clear zip-top plastic bag along with your other personal liquid and gel items. If your prescription medications come in larger containers or bottles, you will need to pack them separately in your carry-on bag.
You must declare each medication to the security officer when you arrive at the airport security checkpoint. Permitted items include:
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplies, such as saline solution for contact lenses
- Water, juice, "liquid nutrition" (such as Boost), and gels that are necessary for a passenger with a medical condition or disability to consume during the flight
- Bone marrow, transplant organs, and other life-sustaining materials
- Mastectomy products and other cosmetic or medical augmentation items that contain gel or liquid
- Breast milk and baby formula
- Frozen gels or liquids (ice packs) required to cool medications, life-sustaining materials, or disability-related items
At the Airport Security Checkpoint
When you arrive at the security checkpoint, you, your travel companion or a family member must declare your medically necessary liquid and gel items to a security screening officer if these items are in bottles or containers larger 3.4 ounces. You can tell the screening officer about your prescription drugs or present a written list. You may wish to bring doctor's notes, original prescription bottles or containers, and other documentation to make the screening process go more quickly.
You will need to present your medically necessary items, including prescription drugs, separately to the screening officer. The screening officer may ask you to open your bottles or containers of medically necessary liquid for inspection and testing. This testing may include pouring liquids into alternative containers or examining small amounts of the liquids. If your medically necessary liquids cannot be opened or X-rayed, you will still be able to bring your liquids with you, but you will probably have to undergo a pat-down screening, so you should plan to get to the airport early.
You will still need to remove your shoes during the screening process unless you have a medical condition or disability that prevents you from doing so, wear a prosthetic device, or are over 75 years old. If you do not remove your shoes, expect to have them inspected and tested for explosives while you are wearing them.
Packing Your Prescription Drugs
While the TSA suggests that you carry only the prescription drugs and medical liquids you need during your flight in your carry-on bag, travel experts recommend that you take all doses of the medications and medical supplies you will need for your trip with you in your carry-on bag if at all possible. Unexpected delays during your trip can leave you without enough medication because you cannot access your checked baggage until you reach your final destination. In addition, prescription drugs and medical supplies occasionally disappear from checked baggage en route, and today's computerized prescription ordering systems make it difficult and time-consuming to obtain additional medications when you are far from home.
It is easier and safer to bring all of the prescription medications and medical liquids you will need on your travels with you in your carry-on baggage, even if you must undergo additional screening at the TSA checkpoint.
You are allowed to bring ice packs to keep medications and liquid medical supplies cold as long as you declare the ice packs to your screening officer.
If you need more information about packing your prescription medications or presenting them to the screening officer, contact TSA Cares at least 72 hours before your flight.
International Screening Information
The nations of the European Union, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and many other countries have agreed to work together to establish and maintain consistent and effective airport security screening procedures. This means that you can pack all your small liquid and gel items in your zip-top bag and use the same bag almost anywhere you travel.
What to Do if You Experience a Problem at the TSA Checkpoint
If you experience problems during your security screening, ask to talk with a TSA supervisor about your prescription medications. The supervisor should be able to resolve the situation.