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Real Talk with Dave: T1D + Security (Knowing Your Rights)

It’s a well-known fact that going through security as a Type 1 Diabetic is not the most enjoyable thing. In fact, it could be a true nightmare, in some cases. It is hard having to go through security as nowadays, most Diabetics wear some type of life-saving device (Insulin pumps, CGMs, etc.). To some security guards, these devices may look a bit suspicious, but in fact, they are what help keep us alive each day. Now I know how stressful it must be for a security guard as they have to protect everybody from any harm and danger, but it would be nice if we could always guarantee a bit of respect and understanding, as it’s not so easy on our end either. I am touching on this subject as it is very important that it be discussed as all Diabetics should be aware of their rights when going through security.

For starters, going through security when wearing an Insulin pump can be quite challenging. Some pump companies allow you to go through a metal detector while wearing a pump, however, some suggest/advise you don’t do so as it can mess up the settings on your pump and potentially break it. You would not want to go on a 12 hour flight and have your pump break on you while up in the air. So, even if the brand of pump you wear has no restrictions as to whether you can go through a metal detector or not, I advise that you just don’t go through at all and opt-out for a pat down instead (I know, not fun, but it’s much better than having a complication with your pump). Most security officers are now familiar with Insulin pumps and will kindly allow you to step to the side and wait for a pat down. Some may give you a hard time, especially when traveling internationally, in this case, bring a signed and detailed letter from your doctor (translated in the language of the country you will be in) and have it accessible with you at all times.

Often times, security officers feel as though they know better than you about your medical devices and may tell you that it is okay to go in through a metal detector while wearing a pump. Don’t listen to them, but use that moment as a time to educate and explain to them the danger if you did do so. They should be understanding and then allow you to skip out for a pat down. There was a time when a security guard (who was clearly uneducated on Insulin pumps) was telling me to go through, right after I explained to him that I could not do so. He kept telling me it was okay and I can still go through. I repeatedly told him how I could not, but he insisted I listen to him. It took 3 times of me telling him “no” and explaining to him how there is a very serious consequence if I did go in through a metal detector, so he then just let me walk around it with no pat down required (not a smart move on his end to let people just walk through, but you get what I’m saying).

Know that if you are not comfortable with showing your pump/CGM site in public (say it was located on a part of the body that you can’t show out in the open), kindly ask to have a private screening and the guard will gladly take you to a private office where you can then show them your sites. Always have your doctor’s note on hand and don’t let a security guard tell you what you can or cannot have with you. This is a serious disease, and whether you are traveling or not, if you need your medications, devices, food, or drinks, you should be able to take them in. You really have no choice and the security officers should be understanding of that. I once was traveling outside of the U.S. and the security guard was not allowing me to take in a bottle of juice in case of a low blood sugar. She was very rude about it and threw it away right in front of me. I was shocked at how inconsiderate she was and how hurtful her words were, as if I were causing a crime, telling me that “I didn’t need it”. She seemed to also have a problem with me checking in multiple suitcases with medical devices/supplies, and again, very rude about it all. I had a doctor’s letter and everything, but she was not willing to read it. In times like these, if it is because of a food or drink item, they may ask you to purchase from a store past the security check. Unless you are having a low at that very moment, you may have to just follow the rules, but they should have no right to do so if it is regarding your medications/supplies.

            All in all, know that you should be allowed all you need in any case if it brings safety and wellbeing to your Diabetes. Nobody has that right over you. This is your life we are talking about.

Be safe, follow the rules, but most importantly, have what you need with you when you need them.

Live well,

Dave

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