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Diabetes Emergencies

Medical Author: Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Viewers have been submitting a number of questions about emergency situations as they pertain to patients with diabetes. While every situation is different and each patient has different needs and demands, we at eMedicineHealth felt that it would be helpful to address some significant issues. Patients with diabetes who require insulin (either type 1 or type 2 diabetes) do pose a challenge when it comes to emergency situations. Let me outline some of the problems and hopefully present some useful options.

Air Travel And Diabetes Medications

With the changes in regulations in air travel, patients with diabetes are concerned about what they can, and cannot pack in their carry-on luggage.

Diabetes Testing Kit

From the TSA website: Notify the Security Officer that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies with you. The following diabetes-related supplies and equipment are allowed through the checkpoint once they have been screened:

  • Insulin and insulin loaded dispensing products (vials or box of individual vials, jet injectors, biojectors, epipens, infusers, and preloaded syringes;


  • Unlimited number of unused syringes when accompanied by insulin or other injectable medication;


  • lancets, blood glucose meters, blood glucose meter test strips, alcohol swabs, meter-testing solutions;


  • Insulin pump and insulin pump supplies (cleaning agents, batteries, plastic tubing, infusion kit, catheter, and needle); Insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin.


  • Glucagon emergency kit;


  • Urine ketone test strips;


  • Unlimited number of used syringes when transported in Sharps disposal container or other similar hard-surface container.


  • Sharps disposal containers or similar hard-surface disposal container for storing used syringes and test strips.

Diabetes and Insulin

Insulin in any form or dispenser must be clearly identified.

If you are concerned or uncomfortable about going through the walk-through metal detector with your insulin pump, notify the Security Officer that you are wearing an insulin pump and would like a full-body pat-down and a visual inspection of your pump instead.

Diabetes Insulin Pump

Advise the Security Officer that the insulin pump cannot be removed because it is inserted with a catheter (needle) under the skin.

Advise the Security Officer if you are experiencing low blood sugar and are in need of medical assistance.

You have the option of requesting a visual inspection of your insulin and diabetes associated supplies. See this Medication section for details.

Place all of your medications and related supplies in clear zip-lock bags if possible. This way visual inspection is much easier for the TSA agents.

TSA officials will normally X-ray medication and medication related supplies, if you wish to have your medication and supplies hand inspected rather than X-rayed, you may do so but you must request this prior to the beginning of the screening process.

Letters from doctors are not recommended since security has concerns that these may be easily forged.  The currently recommended way to fly with medications and equipment, such as insulin, syringes, lancets and glucagon is to travel with all medications and supplies that have the original pharmacy label on them. If your medication is lacking such a label, you can call your pharmacy and see if they will print out a new one for you. You can also call your doctor's office to ask if they can call in a recent prescription for you that will have the label on it. For patients with insulin pumps, there seems to be no problem so far provided that security personnel is shown in detail the plunger, tubing, etc. The companies that provide the pumps (Minimed, etc.) have a 1-800 line for further information.

It is always a good idea to check the current TSA regulations prior to flying.

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