When Kim Everett’s family travels, their carry-on luggage is filled with all the necessities for a fun-filled vacation, as well as quite a few epinephrine auto-injectors.
These are life-saving medications in case an Everett family member has a deadly allergic reaction, otherwise known as an anaphylaxis. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, anaphylaxis occurs in approximately 1 in 50 people. Without this medication, traveling would be impossible.
“If you have anaphylactic allergies, always travel with your epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) either in a purse or other easily accessible carry-on,” said Everett, travel design expert at Keepsake Travel Designs in Los Angeles.
Rest assured that travelers can carry an EpiPen on an airplane.
“While not always needed, my recommendation is to carry a note from a physician or the prescribing information with you as well as the medication,” said Everett.
That recommendation comes in handy for pretty much all medications that you must travel with. While traveling through Peru, Everett was asked to use her inhaler in front of security to show them that it was safe and that it was actually her medication.
“Once I used the inhaler, they were fine with keeping it with me, but I now try to carry labels and original packaging for all medications, even the ones I don't think I'll need them for, like an albuterol inhaler,” she said. “While I have never needed a note or the prescription for any flights, it's always easier to have it with us in case we ever need it since we can't fly without the emergency medication.”
If you need to travel with narcotics, Dr. Michael Zimring, director of the Wilderness and Travel Medicine Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, said it’s also wise to travel with copies of the prescription and a note from a physician stating the need for the narcotic.
“However, try to avoid carrying narcotics across international lines,” he said. “Depending on the country or the person examining your luggage, they could accuse you of bringing narcotics to use for recreational purposes. Would this happen? Anything is possible.”
You can carry other medication on the airplane as well, including bottles larger than 3ounces. But if you do, Everett reminds you that both you and the bottles are subject to additional screening at the TSA checkpoint.
“Last time I was traveling with my children and carried their medication on a plane, not all of the bottles could be opened, or they were in opaque bottles,” said Everett. “Because of that, I also had a pat-down and my hands were swabbed for testing.”
Since travelers are allowed an additional carryon for medical supplies, Everett keeps all prescription medication and medical supplies in a small, separate bag for screening and boarding to streamline the process at security.
“And to make sure I can easily access any needed medications on the airplane,” she said. “It has never taken me too long to get medication screened separately and through security, but I always allow for additional time just in case. When you get to TSA, let someone know that you have medications and supplies with you so that they can help you before you go through the screening checkpoint.”
If you’re traveling internationally, it’s best to translate your allergies into the language of the country you are visiting.
“It's always better to have it with you and not need it, then to have a problem while you're traveling because you couldn't ask about the ingredients of a meal,” Everett added. “It's definitely more work traveling with so many medical supplies and medications, but it is absolutely doable and should not stop anyone from exploring the world.”