Traveling with urinary catheters can be a bit intimidating, especially for people who are new to cathing. 180 Medical likes to keep our patients well informed, and up to speed with the latest urological research, news, and tips.
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 Airline
One 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 Regulations
TSA 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 Catheters
Count 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
Closed System Catheters
Many 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.
If 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 Plane
If 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 and travel tips for carry-ons: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/travel-tips
Editor's Additional Resources:
Delta's travel information for those with disabilities or wheelchair users
Card Issued for Air Travelers with Disabilities
10 Ways to Carry
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.