A common catheter question I hear is, “Now that I use intermittent catheters, can I travel?” The answer is yes. Whether it be for business or pleasure, you can travel with catheters. Catheter users can travel via airplanes, busses, trains, or ships to reach their destination. Here are some tips that can make traveling with catheters easier:
Regardless of your method of travel, keep several catheters in an easily accessible location. You may need to empty your bladder suddenly during your trip and having catheters on hand is a must. Consider obtaining a small travel bag for your catheters that can be kept on your lap or shoulder. Don’t forget to pack hand sanitizer, as this can make pre-cathing hand hygiene quick and easy on the go!
If you are concerned about restroom access, consider obtaining a closed system catheter for your trip. A closed system consists of an intermittent catheter with a bag attached. Urine drains directly into the bag, so the bladder can be emptied even if a restroom isn’t available. The collection bag is sealed, keeping the urine contained for easy disposal later. Placing a blanket across the lap during use can help maintain privacy. If a closed system catheter cannot be obtained, consider bringing a leg bag or bedside drainage bag with you. The tubing on these bags can be attached to the funnel end of the intermittent catheter, providing a discreet receptacle for urine storage if a toilet cannot be reached.
What about getting your catheters through TSA airport security? As an individual with medical needs, you are permitted to bring catheters on an airplane. Catheters are considered necessary medical devices and can be kept in both carry-on and checked baggage. Pack extra catheters in your carry-on bag just in case your checked luggage is lost or delayed.
When traveling by airplane, most passengers are permitted up to 3.4 ounces of liquid in carry-on luggage. Due to COVID-19, one 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer is also allowed. If you use lubricant, make sure the packets you bring in your carry-on bags are less than 3.4 ounces. If you perform bladder flushes with saline, you may need to pack the bottles in checked luggage. According to the TSA website, larger amounts of medically necessary liquids may be permitted in carry-on luggage in reasonable quantities, but this is not a guarantee. All liquids over the 3.4-ounce limit must be presented to TSA officers at the checkpoint for inspection.
A Medical Validation Certificate may help explain product necessity to TSA officers. A Medical Validation Certificate is not typically a travel requirement, but it can help explain why you need catheters and other supplies with you on your trip. This certificate consists of a brief description of the medical supplies, contact information of the user, and official notice of need signed by the healthcare provider.
Keep in mind that rules may change. To avoid any surprises, consider contacting the airline you will be traveling with and ask about procedures for traveling with catheters.
Last but not least, it never hurts to pack extra catheters and supplies when traveling. This can reduce anxiety around running out of supplies in case your trip is delayed or something unexpected occurs.
For more information on TSA rules for travelers with medical needs, please visit: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures
Use this link to print off a blank Medical Validation Certificate for your healthcare provider to sign: https://www.coloplastcare.com/siteassets/cc/3.-lifestyle/l3-travel/l3.7-travel-certificate/cp_travel_certificate.pdf
*ABC Medical is a supplier of durable medical equipment and does not provide medical advice or treatment. This article is for informational purposes only. You should seek medical treatment from a licensed medical provider.