Overcoming Inflammation

How to travel with medications

August 16, 2017
Airplane in the sunset: How to travel with medications

The other day, someone asked me how to travel with medications.  In this particular instance, it had to do with a medication that comes as a prefilled syringe.  I figured I’d write down some tips on how to travel with rheumatology medications.

Before you travel

Before traveling, ask your doctor for a letter describing your medical condition and the medication(s) that you are taking for that particular condition.  The TSA officer may not ask you to produce such a document, but if they do you’re covered.  This isn’t really an issue for oral medications but more for liquid medications.  Read on to learn more about liquid medications.


The TSA allows travel with your medication in both your carry-on and your checked baggage.  However, I suggest that you always carry it with your carry-on.  First, you never know when you’ll need your medication.  Second, you don’t want anyone tampering with your medications.  As you already probably know, some medications are very expensive.  E.g., 1 etanercept pen costs about $1 000.  Would you put $1 000 in cash in your checked bag?  Call me paranoid but I wouldn’t.

Oral medications

When it comes to medications that come in pill form, you do NOT need to tell the TSA that you are carrying medications.  You can carry as much medication as you will need for your trip.  However, like any other carry-on baggage, the TSA needs to screen your medications through their x-ray machine.  The TSA does not mandate that you carry your medications in the original prescription bottle, however, every state has their own set of laws regarding the labeling of prescription medications. You absolutely need to verify and comply with your own state’s laws.

Subcutaneous medications

First, you must tell the TSA officer that you are carrying liquid medications.  These include medications that come in pens, prefilled syringes, and vials like subcutaneous methotrexate.  Prescribed creams and eye drops are also considered liquid medications.  Some examples of subcutaneous medications include etanercept, adalimumab, abatacept, golimumab, and belimumab, etc.

Unlike your usual liquids like shampoo or perfume, liquid medications are exempt from the 3-1-1 liquids rule.  This means that you ARE allowed to bring more than 3.4 ounces or 100 mL of liquid medication in your carry-on bag.  Moreover, you are NOT required to place the medication in a plastic zip-top bag.  Like oral medications, the TSA does not require that you carry medications in their original labeling, however, it is highly suggested.  Remember, you must comply with your state’s laws.

Liquid medications also go through x-ray screening.  If you don’t want your medication screened by x-ray, you must tell the TSA officer.  Your medication will need to undergo additional screening procedures like visual screening.

Used syringes

You had a great trip, but now it’s time to go back home.  During your trip, you may have used a syringe/pen or two.  It’s important to note that you can bring used syringes or pens but you must transport them in a sharps disposal container.  You can put your container in your checked bag and you can also bring it on your carry-on bag.


Some medications need to be kept cold at all times until you actually need them.  Some accessories include ice packs, freezer packs, gel packs, or syringes.  The TSA will screen these items.  If the officer is unable to use the x-ray to clear any of your items, they also will need more screening.


These items include walkers, crutches, and canes.  Like any other item, these items undergo x-ray screening.  If the item does not fit into the machine, the TSA officer will do a visual screening.

Wheelchairs and scooters

Obviously, these items don’t fit through the x-ray machine.  When traveling with these items, the TSA officer will screen your device, including the seat cushion.

What if you can’t walk or stand?

The TSA officer will help you sit down in a chair and you will undergo a pat-down screening.

Have a fun trip!

Now you’re ready for your big trip!  If you need more information please visit the transportation security administration website.  When in doubt, please contact them directly before your trip.

Safe travels!

Medical Disclaimer

This information is offered to educate the general public. The information posted on this website does not replace professional medical advice, but for general information purposes only. There is no Doctor – Patient relationship established. We strongly advised you to speak with your medical professional if you have questions concerning your symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

How to travel with medications
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How to travel with medications
Planning a big trip? Have you ever wondered how you should travel with medications at the airport? At RheumDoctor we got you covered!
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1 Comment

  • Reply Guide to living with rheumatoid arthritis: part 3 - RheumDoctor August 30, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    […] you may have about the medication: how to store it, how to dispose of the syringes and/or pens, what to do when traveling with biologics, side effect, […]

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