FUDiabetes

Going through customs

travel
international-travel

#1

Tomorrow I’m flying to Singapore on a one-week trip for work, my first since diagnosis. I feel well prepared and have found some good advice in other topics. I’m also confident that the airport security thing will work out.

The thing I haven’t read much about is the other end of the flight: arrival. Do you declare your medications at customs, or do you just take the green track?


#2

As long as you are taking less than a 3 month supply, I think you are good, and can just walk through the green track.

To be safe have paper prescriptions with you, but honestly, we have never been stopped or questioned when travelling. There are enough diabetics out there that have blazed the trails, that most of the people in the airports know what insulin is.


#3

@kalle, I am with @Chris. We have never had a problem.

To be safe, we travel with a paper prescription and a letter from the endo that says my son is diabetic. But we never had to use either.

FYI, when we go through security we always explain before we go through that we have a thermos of insulin. It appears to have smoothed the way a few times. Somehow, our
pump/CGM equipment often triggers the bomb-chemicals sniffer, and they often need to check our pump/cgm gear with that special chemicals check.


#4

We had particular protein bars triggered that. Only one brand - none of the others. Decided next time we might just leave that brand home.

But TSA was polite and professional.

They did their thing. They were complete about it - no doubt. But didn’t make an unduly fuss or make it look like anything other than what they do all the time.

We had plenty of time so it was no big deal.

Time is probably my biggest suggestion.

Add an extra hour. Bring something to read. If you breeze through security then pick a chair, chill and read. If you get held up in security then not a big deal - you have extra time.


#5

I’ve never declared anything at customs. I’ve just taken the green track.

I don’t really know if the G6 transmitter should go through the AIT full body scanners (dexcom hasn’t specified it’s safe), so I request a pat down and carry my spare transmitter through when I’m leaving on vacation. I may be willing to forgo that on the way home, but I’m not willing to chance it on a trip to another country.


#6

Thank you for the tips and for sharing your experiences. I have a detailed note from the clinic that looks really formal, so I think it should do the trick, just in case. I’ll just take the green track and be prepared if they decide to check me. Has any of you been checked at the green track? It would make sense for them to randomly check some people every now and then, but I’ve never seen it happen.

That thing about the bomb sniffer is interesting. I wonder how sophisticated those machines are and what substance is triggering the false positives. I’m on the train to the airport right now googling things like “airport security” and “bomb detection”. Let’s hope there’s no one watching my web traffic :rofl:

I have a Libre and the impact of airport security seems to depend on who you ask. The US website states that it’s not compatible with full-body scanners, but the Swedish one says it’s fine. I’ll go with “fine” for now. I do have two different finger stick meters so I can get by if there’s a problem.


#7

We have been checked twice, in maybe 25 times. Both times they searched all of our luggage, then they let us go.

They never gave me trouble about my insulin and my gear, though.


#8

Turns out this was totally not a problem, just like you all said :slight_smile: The immigration form did have a pretty aggressive warning though: “DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW” in big red letters :sweat_smile:

Security was interesting. At first, the agent at the conveyor belt asked if i had liquids and then said I had to take them out of the bag. As soon as she recognized them as insulin pens, she just said “Oh diabetes. Just leave them in the bag and I’ll tell them [the people checking the X-ray]”.


#9

Glad it went well. We have only had one issue with an overzealous TSA person getting a bit aggressive in the pat down for my 13 year old. Other than that, it has been a non-issue.


#10

Green track. Own it. Walk on through!!!

We went to Singapore in 2016 on our way around the world and we had no problems. Also, no problems in the other 9 countries we passed through. Never once had a problem. (Knock wood.) :grin:


#11

Late to the thread but … Customs isn’t interested in your meds or medical equipment. Those are security concerns, and you cleared security before your flight. Customs is concerned about whether you’re bringing in prohibited products such as dairy or fruit; whether you might be bringing in certain germs (which is why they often ask if you’ve been on a farm recently); and whether you’re declaring the correct duties on the stuff you bought while you were away.

For whatever reason, we get pulled over almost every time we arrive back in Canada. (Just too shifty-looking, I guess.) Mostly they want to check over receipts for our purchases. No customs person has ever shown any interest in our medications.


#12

That’s a very good point. Makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. This was my first time and that made me a bit nervous about the whole procedure, but I suppose I’ll be able to relax next time now that I’ve tried it once.


#13

I’ve never had a problem with insulin, I wouldn’t expect to - every country has lots of diabetics. In the US I put my supplies in a gallon ziplock (they won’t fit in a quart) and carry a letter from my doctor with a full list of everything required. Problems I have seen:

  1. Syringes (when I used MDI): A TSA person dinged me for not declaring them before hand. It only happened once years ago, I’ve never declared them. A United airline representative in Spain said I had to have a doctors letter to take syringes on the plane; I pointed out I was a diabetic and had the rapidly rising blood sugar to prove it, she let me check in.

  2. Alcohol (for site preparation, not for getting through the flight): The site prep materials that are available vary by country. Propanol (“rubbing alcohol”) is available in the US but not in most other countries but I wouldn’t even attempt to carry a bottle through customs, so I just carry a large number of the useless sterile pads.

  3. The G6: Dexcom say not to take it through metal detectors. I ignore this; I can’t see why a minute non-magnetic device would be harmed by a metal detector and it hasn’t so far. Neither the G6 sensor nor the Omnipod will trigger a metal detector. I don’t bother telling anyone about them; I have TSA Pre clearance for the US and most other countries use metal detectors. My doctor’s letter does say I can’t go through a metal detector, just in case.

  4. Omnipod: safe in metal detectors and, before I got TSA Pre, seemed to be just fine in the x-ray scanners. The problem is that it shows on the scanner television screen so if you got through the scanner you get swabbed in addition. It’s still quicker that the pat-down stuff.

  5. Snacks (for low BG): I carry glucose tablets and have never had a problem with those and they are on my doctor’s letter. Coming into the US it is a big deal; pretty much all food is banned and, since the precise ban depends on point of origin and the state you land in, the only option is to junk it all (including any left over airline food) at the point of entry. Some other countries have similar difficult to understand rules and some even have the fruit-sniffer dogs that are rampant in the US. It took a half-hour plus wait for a customs person in the US to convince my wife that even if a banana is allowed establishing that fact is not worth the delay, particularly if you can use the kiosks on entry (“global entry” and other pay-for-entry options).

One thing I have yet to encounter is the issue with importing prescription medication into the US; it was banned a few years ago. This was the change that stopped me getting humalog from Turkey or, for that matter, Canada. Consequently you can’t buy stuff overseas and bring it back. That’s a potential problem if you have an insulin-analog stolen while outside the country and, while technically regular insulin (even the GMO stuff) doesn’t require a prescription I can imagine an over-zealous customs person confiscating it. This doesn’t apply, so far as I can see, to non-residents coming into the US, only those of us who live here.


#14

Dexcom G6
User Guide
Chapter 2 - Indications for Use and Safety Statements

Going Through Security Check Point

When wearing your G6, ask for hand-wanding or full-body pat-down and visual inspection instead of going through the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) body scanner (also called a millimeter wave scanner) or putting any part of the G6 in the baggage x-ray machine.

You can wear the G6 for the walk-through metal detector. If you do, use your meter for treatment decisions until you leave the security area.

Because we haven’t tested every x-ray and scanner, we don’t know if they damage the G6.

Not sure what kind of machine it is? Be safe – either ask the TSA officer, request hand-wanding, or request full-body pat-down.


#15

You can wear the G6 for the walk-through metal detector.

You are correct, I mis-remembered; Omnipod is ok with the body scanners, G6 is not, which I found somewhat disappointing given that I was ok with the body scanners before. I’d risk it anyway; a failed G6 is something I can deal with, particularly given the unreliability in airports in the first place.

[Ask for a visual inspection instead of] putting any part of the G6 in the baggage x-ray machine.

I just ignored this. Has anyone tried it? Given all the bluetooth stuff that goes through the baggage scanner as do my omnipods and PDM I just put spare sensors through, I don’t carry the DexCOM transmitter, but it’s just a bluetooth device.


#16

Yes, we have done it several times. It sometimes takes a while to get the visual inspection done though. You have to wait around until the right guy is there and gives the pat down. No more than about 5-10 minutes though. In Singapore it is probably really efficient.


#17

I’ve gone through that scanner several times with my G6 traveling roughly monthly for about a year with it. TSA has never noticed it on the scan (or at least never mentioned it) and I’ve never had any noticeable issues with performance or reliability.


#18

I don’t have Dexcom but the Libre. I had a new sensor with me since it was due for replacement during the trip. I put it through X-ray before the outbound flight and haven’t noticed any effect at all. I haven’t tried a full-body scanner though. They don’t have them in Singapore and in Copenhagen you only have to go through them if you set off the metal detector.


#19

My understanding is that the AIT fully body scanners aren’t all the same. So even if it worked fine at one time in one place, that doesn’t mean anything about the next time you encounter a scanner elsewhere.

I’ve gone through the scanner while traveling in the states for a short trip as well. I’’m not ready to risk it for a long international trip though.

It’s good to hear it’s always worked for you though!


#20

Yeah AIT includes both millimeter wave & backscatter scanners, but I’ve probably been through both. Even within type there’s probably a difference between brands just like CT & MRI results aren’t comparable across brands/models. But they still work the same way. I worry about a lot of things related to my diabetes, but this one isn’t even on my radar. I’d rather get scanned than opt out, since I would be more worried about my sensor getting knocked out by the TSA agent during the pat-down.