Not all diabetes technology can safely go through security checks at airports. Fortunately, many UK airports are now following Civil Aviation Authority guidance on making things less stressful.
There are two initiatives and we suggest you use both of them together for the best chance of a stress-free airport experience.
Hidden Disability Lanyards
Many UK airports now provide lanyards for anyone with a ‘hidden disability’ to wear in UK airports so that security staff know they may need extra help/understanding or knowledge.
How do I get a hidden disability lanyard?
It varies, so google the airport you will be traveling from to find out how to get a lanyard (or wristband or other identifiers). For example, Gatwick Airport
2. The Medical Device Awareness Card
(for use in UK airports)
Following her family’s ordeal in 2016 at Dubai airport, Rachel Humphrey is campaigning to standardise airport security policies regarding insulin pumps worldwide. Read JDRF’s news item about the ordeal here.
As a result of Rachel’s relentless campaiging, in February 2019 the Medical Device Awareness Card was launched in the UK, sponsored by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Airport Operators Association (AOA), which covers both insulin pumps and Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems (CGM). The card provides information for both the Security Officer and the passenger.
How do I get a Medical Device Awareness Card?
Rachel will continue to campaign for the card to be recognised globally. You can follow Rachel’s campaign here.
Airport security and insulin pumps
You shouldn’t have any problems taking your pump through the usual security at the airport. However, some people have reported problems with their pumps following whole-body scanning.
On their website, the Civil Aviation Authority says:
At airport security passengers with insulin pumps can opt for a hand search or other screening options. You will need to carry a letter from your doctor confirming your situation which should be handed to the security officer. This applies to all EU airports which should be aware of the requirement
There have been some concerns about possible effects of airport security screening equipment on insulin pumps. Unfortunately the different pump manufacturers do not all give the same advice. This varies from assurance that the pumps can safely go through any screening equipment, including X-ray equipment, to advice that the equipment may be affected by even the low-dose X-ray equipment used in some whole body scanners.
If you use an insulin pump, it is therefore important to contact the manufacturer of the particular pump that you use for advice. It is also sensible to contact your airline and the airports you will travel through to find out their requirements if the manufacturer advises that your pump cannot go through some screening equipment.
Changes in the cabin air pressure can have an effect on insulin delivery. The reduction in cabin air pressure when the aircraft climbs may lead to a slight increase in delivery of insulin as a result of the formation or expansion of air bubbles in the insulin syringe or tubing. This might be sufficient to cause symptoms of hypoglycaemia. A more severe impact could be seen in the (very rare) event of sudden decompression of the cabin at altitude. A slight reduction in insulin delivery is also possible during descent. You should discuss the best way to manage this with your doctor.