Navigating the airwaves of traveling with breast milk and prescriptions

Navigating the airwaves of traveling with breast milk and prescriptions

By Megy Karydes

“Breast milk doesn’t taste very pleasant!” exclaims Adam Sommer, a travel writer based in St. Louis, Mo.

OK, but why was Sommer drinking breast milk in the first place? While traveling with his wife and baby, security personnel at an Italian airport insisted that he swallow—not just taste—some of his wife’s breast milk if they wanted to bring the rest through security and onto the plane.

“Needless to say, I was less than enthusiastic to have to swallow it, but by the end of a long overseas trip, I just wanted to get home,” he says. “It would have been far worse to not be able to take the milk on the plane—it would have made that flight a nightmare for everyone.”

Although breast milk isn’t necessarily medicine, it is required liquid for nursing babies. For those who don’t often travel with medicine in liquid form, knowing what you can and cannot transport in carry-on luggage can be confusing. Is medicine considered one of your three-item liquid carry-on allowances? Do you need a doctor’s note for clearance? How about cough medicine?

Ann Davis, spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), says a doctor’s note is not necessary, and liquid medicine will not count against your three-item liquid carry-on limit. She advises travelers visit TSA’s website, which clearly states that medications, baby formula and food, including breast milk, are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces.

“We recommend only taking the amount of medicine that is necessary during the duration of your flight and [pack] the rest of it in a checked bag,” says Davis. “Medicine that you need during the flight, even if it’s in excess of three ounces, is permissible.”

She asks travelers to declare the medicine immediately so that the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) can send it through a separate screening process. Sommers agrees that declaring items like medicine and breast milk in advance is better than hoping it successfully passes through regular screening.

“We always inform security straightaway that we have breast milk,” says Sommers. “Although it’s been adventurous at times to get the milk screened and tested, 100 percent of the time we have successfully transported the milk through security, properly.

“Security in most countries is quite good, and they will find it. Sneaking it through is not recommended, nor would you succeed anyway,” he adds.

Some companies are responding to security challenges by creating products meant for single use and in smaller quantities. Not only does this make it easier to pass medicine through security, but it’s also easier to take while on a flight.

PediaCare recently developed the Single Dose packet with children’s small mouths in mind. The squeezable packet eliminates the possibility of spills when taking the fever reducer, has the correct dosage in one packet so there is no need to measure, and there is no need to wash out or throw away sticky dosing cups.

“In developing the PediaCare packets, we spoke to a lot of caregivers,” admits Carol Bishop, senior brand manager with Prestige Brands, maker of the over-the-counter medicine brand. “They quickly saw the Single Dose packets being great for traveling, leaving with day care providers or grandparents and using at night.”

In the event that a traveler is experiencing problems at the security line, ask to speak with a supervisor. There is one at every checkpoint, and they can handle any discrepancies immediately, says Davis.

If any travelers need additional assistance or want to speak with someone prior to the day of their flight, Davis recommends calling the TSA Cares helpline. “TSA Cares was designed to assist travelers who have specific questions about the security process,” she says.

For those who need additional assistance due to more advanced medical conditions, TSA has more than 2,600 Passenger Support Specialists available at airports across the country to assist travelers on a daily basis. The specialists are able to answer security checkpoint screening questions before travelers arrive at the airport or can meet travelers in person to assist with checkpoint security.

In most cases, policies, as they apply to traveling with medicine and breast milk, are clearly stated on each country’s airport transportation websites. It’s recommended to visit the site in advance of entering the checkpoint security line so you’ll be prepared to either submit your medicine for separate screening or know whether you’ll be tasting or swallowing breast milk.