I spoke with Bill, who works for 180 Medical, for some tips on cathing while traveling. He was kind enough to give some very helpful tips. Bill was injured in a motocross accident over 23 years ago and has real world experience traveling as a quadriplegic.
Contact the AirlineOne of the first things to do is to contact the airline you will be traveling with and inquire if the airline has any special procedures for traveling with catheters. The airline should advise of procedures you should follow. Ask if the equipment you bring on board meets Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines and follow some basic hygiene steps during the flight.
I have never had a problem with the airlines questioning why I am carrying the catheters and supplies, but if you are concerned you can always contact the airline you are traveling with and let them know.
Carry-on Bag RegulationsTSA has established air travel laws and regulations pertaining to liquids. For carry-on bags, you must place all liquids of 3.4 oz or less must fit on one quart-sized, clear, plastic zipper-lock bag. If your catheters have a water packet, they would need to be placed in the clear bag. Since medications are an exception to the rule, the catheters with water packets might be okay, with doctor documentation, but check with the airline to make sure. If you have lubricant, make sure it is 3.4oz or less, and it would also need to go in a clear plastic bag. For those who use lubricant with their catheters, the airline should be okay with it as it is required to catheterize. You should not be limited on how much you can take, but keep it with your catheters so it will be more apparent what it is used for. I have not had a problem with leakage but it might not be a bad idea to put the lubricant into a plastic bag.
Pack the majority of your supplies in your check in luggage, but take enough on your carry on bag to last you until you get to your destination plus a few extra. One other option would be to ship your supplies to your destination. This way you don't have to worry about carrying around the extra load in your luggage.
Bring Extra CathetersCount the number of catheters you will need for your trip. It is a good idea to take enough extra catheters to last an extra day or two in case of unforeseen circumstances. This also includes lubricant and other supplies you use to catheterize.
Closed System CathetersMany people prefer to use a more advanced catheter while traveling to try and reduce the chance of getting an infection. These catheters do not require lubricant and some are designed to where you don’t even touch the catheter which are called closed system catheters. Some people whose insurance will not cover them often purchase them just for traveling.
Antibacterial WipesIf you will be catheterizing in the public restrooms it’s a good idea to carry some antibacterial hand wipes, such as wet ones, to wipe off your hands and urethra before catheterizing.
Restroom on PlaneIf you are unable to use the restroom on the plane and your flight lasts longer than you can wait to catheterize there are a couple of options you can take. One option is to use a Foley catheter while traveling. By doing this, you would only need to empty your leg bag if it fills to capacity before you reach your destination. If it did fill up before landing you could always ask a stewardess for something to empty it into if necessary. Some people will put a blanket over them and will catheterize in their seat.
Visit the Transportation Security Administration Website for more information: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/3-1-1-carry-ons
Editor's Additional Resources:
Video from Delta Airlines for wheelchair users on what to expect at the airport.
Card Issued for Air Travelers with Disabilities
About the Authors:
Bill has worked for 180 Medical for almost ten years in various positions within the company. He works at the 180 Medical corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, OK. He often speaks to customers about adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury. Read more about Bill here.
Trish Eklund has worked for 180 Medical for almost three years, as the Nebraska Office Coordinator. She lives in Nebraska, with her husband and daughters.