Traveling through airport security can already be a pretty nerve-racking experience. But when you are also worried about getting your necessary medical items through security and onto a plane for a flight, it can be even more anxiety inducing. Luckily, there are some pretty lenient TSA rules and guidelines when it comes to flying with your medication.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about TSA medication rules and flying on a plane with medication. I’ll go over the rules for things like prescription medications, pills and liquid medication and other situations like over the counter (OTC) drugs.
What are the TSA rules for flying with medication on a plane?
TSA will allow you to travel with your medication but there are some restrictions that you need to be aware of. Below, I will go through some of the most common restrictions that might apply to you and tell you how you can go about them when flying with medication.
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Does TSA have a limit on the amount of medication I can bring on a plane?
TSA does not have a limit on the amount of medication that you can bring on a plane whenever the medication is in solid form, such as pills. So if you have a need to travel with multiple bottles of pills then you should not be limited to a certain amounts of pills or bottles.
If you have an outrageous amount of medication on you then you might be subject to additional screening. However, in many cases as long as they can x-ray your medication they will not require you to undergo additional screening.
If you do not want your medication exposed to the x-ray machine then just let the TSA agent knows this and they will allow you to go through a different type of screening (note that this could take more time and require you to open up all of your bottles).
Note: Medical Nitroglycerin medicines are allowed.
What are the TSA rules for traveling with liquid medication on a plane?
If you are not aware, TSA has a rule that forbids you from bringing in more liquids than can fit in 3.4 ounce containers that fit into a quart size bag (typically a clear Ziploc bag).
This is known as the “TSA 3-1-1 rule” and you will be required to remove the bag from your carry-on unless you have TSA Pre-Check (which I highly recommend).
They require you to only bring reasonable quantities and to notify the agents that you are bringing your liquid medication through security.
When you are bringing your liquid medications through security the TSA 3-1-1 rule does not apply. Instead, TSA will allow you to bring in “reasonable quantities for the flight.” This is a subjective definition here so there is going to be room for agent discretion.
Therefore, try not to go too far with your liquid medications if you think that you might be bringing in an unreasonable amount. It is a very good idea to have a clear stated purpose for why you need that quantity of liquid medication. And it might even be a better idea if you have a signed doctor’s note explaining why you need that much medication.
I have a feeling that if you are trying to bring in a bunch of liquid over the counter (OTC) medication like NyQuil, DayQuil, or something like that they will be less lenient. But if you have a prescription for something less common or something for a specific condition, they will be more accommodating. But that’s just my hunch.
It could probably help your cause if you can explain your dosage requirements in relation to the quantity of medication you are bringing. For example, if you require 10g of medication per day and you are bringing 100g with you on a ten day trip, that makes total sense.
But if you require 10g of the medication per day and you are bringing 3,000g with you for a weekend trip that could be a different story….
Notify the agents
TSA also states that you should notify the TSA agent about your liquid medication before you go through security screening.
Personally, I have flown with liquid medication many times before and have never notified TSA about it nor have they given me any push back (there’s a prescription on the medication bottle).
Even though that is how I have done it in the past, I would recommend disclosing your medication just to make things easier. This is especially the case if you’re traveling with accessories associated with your liquid medication such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes.
If TSA does notice your liquids or you tell them about them, the medically required liquids will be subjected to additional screening that could include being asked to open the container. They might also even pour the substance into another container or simply test out a small sample of the medication. So just be prepared to pop the top if you are asked to.
Note: You will not have to put your liquid medications into a Ziploc bag.
How to pack medication for a flight in a carry-on or checked bag
TSA will allow you to bring your medication onto a plane via carry-on or checked baggage.
Obviously, you will not have access to your checked baggage when you are flying in the plane so if you are in doubt about whether or not you might need access to your medication, then I highly recommend that you pack it in your carry-on.
Plus, remember if your checked bag containing your meds gets lost your medication is also lost.
If you bring your medication as a carry-on you should not be required to show or declare that you are bringing medication, unless you are bringing liquid medication or certain other types of medical instruments like syringes.
(Some travelers inform the TSA agents about all medications they are bringing but that does not always seem to be required in my experience.)
When packing pills or medication I would try to keep them organized in a clear plastic bag just to make things easy at all times.
Try to pack that bag in an easily accessible area within your carry-on so that you can quickly retrieve it if you need to declare or allow inspection for any of your medications.
Also, it’s a good idea for your medications to be labeled to facilitate the security process. (Labeling your meds is not required but it is recommended by TSA.)
When packed in a carry-on and going through a security checkpoint your medication can undergo a visual or X-ray screening (you can choose).
Does TSA require pills to be in a prescription bottle?
Believe it or not TSA does not require your pills to be in a prescription bottle or to show them a copy of your prescription. The catch is that states have different laws regarding how you can legally travel with prescription items.
Some states might require you to carry your pills and a bottle with a prescription and therefore it is always a good idea to keep your pills in a bottle with a prescription label if possible or at least keep the prescription with you if you are using a pill container/organizer.
Also, many countries have very strict rules on prescription medication so be sure to keep up with the latest laws before departing the country. Some might require you to submit a letter from a physician and some countries such as those in the Middle East have very strict laws regarding bringing in certain types of medications.
It is not very difficult to find stories about US tourists getting locked up abroad in prison for bringing medications through the airport. Read more about traveling internationally with medication here.
One interesting thing about prescriptions is that if you forget your ID you can actually use your prescription labels to help verify your identity.
Tip: Ask your pharmacist for extra containers with your name and the medication information on them if you want to carry smaller amounts of drugs with you.
What are the TSA rules for flying on a plane with injectable medication?
You are allowed to travel with injectable medication on a plane. You may also bring unused syringes when they are accompanied by injectable medication. You must declare these items to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection. TSA also recommends, but does not require, that your medications be labeled so it’s a good idea to go with their recommendation.
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What if I need to keep my medication refrigerated when flying?
If you need to keep your medication refrigerated you can use “ice packs, freezer packs, gel packs, and other accessories” to keep your medication cool. You will need to present these at the screening checkpoint in a frozen or partially-frozen state.
It would be a good idea to do a “test run” to see how long your packs can stay refrigerated, especially if you are going to be dealing with a long layover or flight. Some airplanes may have refrigeration but I would not count on that.
Does TSA allow over the counter medication on a plane?
TSA will allow you to bring over the counter medication on a plane, which means you’ll be fine to bring along things like: Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, ibuprofen, etc. Just remember that the rules pertaining to liquids will apply to OTC drugs.
I always advise people to put their medication in a clear plastic bag just to make things easier when making your way through airport security.
Related: Does TSA Check For Arrest Warrants?
What about flying with other items?
If you have questions about bringing other types of items through TSA airport security screening (like food or alcohol), make sure to check out the articles below:
- Bringing food through an airport
- Bringing alcohol through an airport
- Bringing gun cases through an airport
Yes, prescription medication is allowed on planes.
No, your medication does not have to be in the original bottle. However, it’s usually a good idea to have a prescription on hand just in case you’re questioned about the medication.
It’s best to be upfront about bringing medication through TSA, especially because TSA is pretty flexible about what medications you can bring through and all medication must be screened. If you are trying to sneak illegal drugs through TSA security you could be referred to law enforcement.
Yes, you can bring your pill organizer on a plane with your pills inside.
TSA does not require you to show your prescription so it could be possible to bring someone else’s prescription meds with you on a plane. However, it’s a good idea to make sure you are complying with state laws regarding prescription drugs when traveling. In some cases, it may be illegal to possess controlled substances prescribed to someone else.
Yes, cough syrup will be considered a liquid so you should “declare” it when going through TSA, especially if it is above 3.4 ounces.
Yes, you can bring testosterone gel on a plane. While you may not need your prescription it never hurts to bring it along.
TSA states used syringes are allowed when transported in Sharps disposal container or other similar hard-surface container. Unused syringes are allowed when accompanied by injectable medication. You must declare these items to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection.
As you can probably tell, TSA rules regarding medication are actually pretty lenient. They allow you to bring an unlimited amount of pills and solid drugs and they don’t even require you to show or disclose that you are bringing those drugs through the airport and onto the plane.
They also will allow you to go above the liquids rule if you are willing to allow them to inspect your drugs if necessary. And they don’t even require you to show your prescription for drugs. Therefore if you are planning to travel through the airport with your medication you may not have as difficult a time as you may have imagined.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.