From ibuprofen to insulin to inhalers, packing medication for an airplane flight may require special care. In short, you’re allowed to bring whatever medications you need on board an airplane. However, certain medications require certain types of security screening, and traveling abroad can complicate your ability to carry drugs onto a plane. Plan ahead for a smooth journey.
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You can bring pills, liquid, gel and aerosol medications onto the plane, as long as you pack and prepare them in a way that complies with the regulations of the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. You can bring prescription or over-the-counter medications on the plane and they can be packed in either your checked or carry-on luggage. One exception is medical marijuana. Leave this drug at home, since it’s illegal to transport it across state lines, even if it’s been prescribed to you. Even if you’re flying within the state, packing marijuana can cause issues with the security agents and airport police, so leave it at home.
Keep all your medications in their original bottles. If you have solid tablets, you can simply place them in your baggage as they are. Medications that are gels, aerosols or liquids and packed in your carry-on need to be packed in accordance with the TSA’s 3-1-1 rules, meaning each container should be no larger than 3.4 ounces, all containers have to fit in a one-quart bag, and each person can have only one bag. If your medication doesn’t fit the 3-1-1 guidelines, you can still bring it in your carry-on, but it must be screened separately.
Your pills can stay in your carry-on bag when you send it through the X-ray machine. If you have liquids, gels and aerosols packed in a one-quart bag, take the bag out and place it in its own container when you send you belongings down the X-ray belt. If your liquids don’t comply with the 3-1-1 rule, take them out of your bag and tell the security agent that they need to be examined by hand. You can also have your companion explain this or write it out in a letter if you’re not able to speak on your own. You must also tell the TSA agents if you have medical equipment such as a syringe or EpiPen, since these may need to be personally screened as well.
While you’re permitted to carry necessary medications onto American flights, if you’re traveling internationally, you could run into problems on your return trip. The State Department recommends checking with the embassy of the country you’ll be visiting and ask if you’ll be allowed to have possession of your medications. It’s also wise to ask your doctor for a letter stating what medical conditions you have and what medications he’s prescribed, including their generic names. You can present this letter to the foreign security agents if they raise any questions at the airport.
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