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Take Your Prescription Drugs Through Airport Security


Hispanic doctor talking with older patient
Blend Images - REB Images/ Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Many travelers who take prescription drugs worry about bringing medications onto airplanes. While it is true that every item brought onboard an airplane must be screened, you should be able to bring prescription drugs on your flight without difficulty.

Taking Prescription Drugs Through U.S. Airport Security

In the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows passengers to bring prescription drugs and other medically-required substances, such as water or juice, onto their flights. You may place medications in 100 milliliter / 3.4 ounce 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 and declare each one to your security screener when you arrive at the airport security checkpoint.

Permitted items include:

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplies, such as saline solution

  • Water, juice, "liquid nutrition" (such as Boost) and gels that are necessary for a passenger with a medical condition or disability 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

  • Frozen gels or liquids required to cool medications, life-sustaining materials or disability 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 screener if they are in bottles or containers over 100 milliliters / 3.4 ounces in size. You can make this declaration orally or present it in writing. You may wish to bring doctor's notes, original prescription bottles and containers or other documentation to make the screening process go more quickly.

You will still need to remove your shoes during the screening process unless you have a medical condition or disability or you wear a prosthetic device. 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, I suggest you take everything you will need for your trip with you in your carry-on bag. Unexpected delays during your trip can leave you on the aircraft without enough medication, and you will be unable to 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, if not impossible, to obtain additional medications when you are far from home.

Remember that you are allowed to bring ice packs to keep medications and liquid medical supplies cold, as long as you declare them to your screening official.

International Screening Information

The European Union, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico and many other nations 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.

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