I have written a post before about my experience flying with an ostomy, but in the year or so since then I have flown a few more times and had a few different experiences. In just the past month I’ve been on a plane twice, so I figure it’s about time for another post.
First of all, I want to say that I have never had any actual issues flying with my bag. I have heard people worry before about what happens because of the change in pressure inside the cabin, but I have never even noticed a change. I do always empty my bag before getting on the plane, but that’s mostly because I don’t want to have to worry about emptying the bag in the plane lavatory. The pressure change seems to have no effect on my ostomy.
But let’s go back to the beginning of the trip. After making it through check in, the real fun begins: security check. This probably goes without saying, but even if you are checking a bag, always, always, always pack your ostomy supplies in your carry on. I have had the unfortunate experience before of having my luggage not arrive with me, so you definitely want to make sure that your supplies are close to you at all times.
My first time flying, I was a little nervous about everything I needed to bring with me. I even called TSA to ask about my scissors to cut my ostomy bag wafers and was told that surgical scissors (with one rounded edge) are allowed. I always check my supplies to make sure they comply with the 3 oz. rule and I have found that most of the items do. If you happen to have something larger, you can always pack that one item in your checked luggage. I have never been stopped going through security because of my supplies.
At the airport I fly out of, they have the full-body scanners and every single person has to go through them. My ostomy usually always shows up — even though I did have one time that it didn’t, but that was at a different airport. I make it a habit of saying to the TSA agent on the other side, “Just so you know, I have an ostomy and I know it sometimes shows up on the scan.” If you are uncomfortable with saying that to an agent, I know there are cards that you can hand to them that let’s them know you have an ostomy (UOAA has one), even though I’ve never used one personally.
The TSA has information on their site for people who have an ostomy that says you will not need to show your ostomy, but it may be subject to additional screening. The image here is directly from the TSA’s website. You can have it pulled up on your phone in case anyone tries to tell you differently. The agents have always been very nice to me, even if they don’t really know what I was talking about. If they are only using metal detectors, you can just walk right through without even mentioning it.
Usually, once I make it through the scanner, they pull me aside to do an explosives residue test. It simply involves them running this wand over your hands and putting it into a machine. Within seconds it gives them a negative response and I am on my way. It maybe takes an extra minute.
I have had one slightly uncomfortable experience. Last month, I went through the scan and the agent said she needed to do a pat down. I was a little caught off guard or I probably would’ve said that no one has ever asked to do that before and asked why she needed to, but I just said, “Okay.” It was over my clothes and not particularly obtrusive, but I could see how it may make some people uncomfortable. She’s one of the few people outside of my husband and my doctor who has actually done something like that. So be prepared in case an agent asks you that. Next time, I might just ask if that is necessary and see if I can just move along to the swab test. But still, all in all, I have never had a major issue.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the worst parts of flying is the plane lavatory. Most of my flights have been fairly short and I haven’t had to worry too much about it, but on my trip to Vegas last year it was a longer flight and I had to empty the bag at one point. It is so awkward in those tiny rooms and they don’t flush like normal toilets, so it’s just a hot mess. I wish I knew of a good way to get through using that bathroom, so if anyone has any suggestions, they are welcome here!
My experiences flying so far have been positives ones, at least from the standpoint of my ostomy. I was definitely worried the first time I had to take a plane, but I am glad that it has been an easy transition. It’s also nice to know what to expect when making your way through airport security.
Has anyone else had a different experience flying with an ostomy? Have you found it to be easier or harder than you originally thought? Any recommendations of things you can do to make the process easier?