5 Ways Your Health Can Hold You Up at Airport Security

These common medical conditions can make passing through airport security a challenge.


The Transportation Security Administration regularly makes headlines as travelers protest increased security measures. It's easy to grow aggravated with the long lines, numerous hoops to jump through, and invasive screening methods. The process is even worse for travelers who are not in peak condition—not many travelers know that even common medical issues can cause major hold-ups at airport security.

Below, five ways your health can keep you in the company of TSA agents for longer than expected.

[See Travel Health: How to Fight 7 In-Flight Ailments.]

You Have Sore Feet

Since December 2001, when Richard Reid unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his shoe onboard a flight from Paris to Miami, TSA officials have paid particular attention to passenger footwear. This has caused passengers with sore feet (and conditions resulting from orthopedic issues) some distress when passing through airport security. Whether they are in your shoes or in your carry-on, gel insoles—like those sold by Dr. Scholl's—will be confiscated during the screening process. You will have to simply endure discomfort until you reach baggage claim at the other end of your flight.

However, travelers with orthopedic shoes should have an easier time clearing security. In fact, according to TSA's website, officials should not ask you to remove "comfort" footwear as you pass through the check point. However, bear in mind that TSA agents encounter thousands of passengers each day and have probably heard every reason under the sun as to why passengers don't want to follow standard security procedures. If your condition is severe enough to warrant keeping your shoes on, bring a note from your doctor.

You Broke a Bone

There is no way around it: Passengers wearing a cast or a brace will be subjected to additional screening. Security officials will need to check the cast or brace for both smuggled items and traces of explosives; depending on the airport, this will involve looking at and touching the cast or device or subjecting the passenger to the CastScope, a machine that X-rays the specific area of the body where the cast or device is located.

While you can't avoid the additional time at security, you can take measures to ensure the process goes smoothly and comfortably. To account for any hold-ups, plan to tackle security at least an hour before your flight is scheduled to board. Also, keep in mind that you shouldn't (and shouldn't be asked to) remove your brace. However, you may be required to lift up clothing to expose your device or cast; if that's the case, you have the right to a private screening performed by two TSA agents of your same gender. You are also allowed to have a companion accompany you throughout the screening process.

You Have Hyperthyroidism

Those who have traveled with hyperthyroidism know that it's not pleasant: Fatigue, digestive issues, and irregular heartbeat are just some of the symptoms associated with this condition. And the added stress of flying is already unpleasant without having to worry about being held up at security. But passengers who have recently undergone treatment for hyperthyroidism can set off an alarm during the screening process. Radioactive iodine, which is often used to cure overactive thyroids, can trigger the radiation detectors in the airport up to 10 days after the passenger has undergone treatment.

If you are traveling soon after receiving radioactive iodine therapy, you will need to inform the screening officer of your condition. A note from your doctor will make the process go smoothly.

You're Diabetic

In May 2012, 16-year-old Savannah Barry—who has type 1 diabetes—made headlines after she was instructed by TSA officials to subject herself to the new (and controversial) full-body scanner, which ultimately damaged her $10,000 insulin pump. Travelers with diabetes may also experience problems at airport security concerning the transportation of medical supplies, such as syringes and vials of insulin. But supplies may not be the only thing that sets TSA officials on edge: Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) often causes dizziness, confusion, and poor coordination, which can be misinterpreted as intoxication. Though you won't necessarily be refused entry to the terminal for appearing to be intoxicated, security agents will put you through the wringer to determine if you could become a safety concern.