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Getting Through TSA Security with an Ostomy

There are many different areas to discuss regarding some of the challenges of traveling with an ostomy. Having an ostomy should not prevent a person from traveling, in the physical sense. Meaning, if someone is emotionally not able to travel due to his/her circumstances and comfort level, I completely understand that.

I wanted to share what some of my experiences have been flying while living with a permanent ileostomy.

Because my inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) was so severe, May of 2014 was the first time I traveled on an airplane since my diagnosis in July of 2000. That is a long time to go without getting on an airplane and the drastic changes that occurred in security post-September 11th weren’t familiar to me. I read other people’s blog posts and tried to prepare myself for what I experienced which helped a bit but I am still a “I need to experience it” kind of person before I can feel comfortable doing it again.

I was shocked beyond belief that the first time I flew, the X-ray machines (is that what they are called?) did not show anything “alarming.” It was such a relief and what I, then, expected would occur on my flight home. I was feeling so, so sick and just wanted to get home as fast as possible. I knew security would be a pain in the butt to get through (like it is for every person who travels via plane) but I wasn’t prepared to be flagged since I wasn’t on my previous flight.

They called someone from TSA over to me at which point I immediately told them about my ostomy and even showed them.

At this point, I was told to go to an area where they would test my hands for bomb residue. They wiped some material on my hands and then put it in a small machine. The man from TSA/security guard then asked me to put my hands on my ostomy and then they were going to repeat the test.

Obviously, it came back negative and I moved on.

One time, they not only tested my hands but went through my carry-ons too.

A few times, my hands were tested and I was patted down.

And my most recent experience involved the usual hand testing thing along with a female officer frisking me to a much larger extent. Her hands even went in between my legs -not to be crude nor was this woman doing it in any kind of sexual way. It just felt way beyond anything I ever experienced before and has since stuck out at me.

I share this to give you some of the things you may experience if you are a person who has had to undergo any type of ostomy surgery.

While none of that was enjoyable for me to go through, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world at all. I am a firm believer that if they are being so thorough with someone like me (who has an obvious reason why the alarms are going off) they are doing that to other people as well.

And I am someone who wants that and takes comfort in that. I know some may say that goes against our rights and other things which is the other side to it (that I can definitely see). However, given this isn’t a political post, I am going to wrap this up. 🙂

Bottom line: If you live with any type of ostomy and choose to travel by plane, odds are that you will be flagged in some way. Just stay calm, know you did not do anything wrong, be upfront, and do what they say (within reason!). You will be cleared and able to enjoy wherever you are heading.

If you are someone who is healthy enough to travel, please don’t let things like this get in the way. I KNOW how anxiety provoking it all can be. Trust me. I panic for days before going anywhere. I just would never want the whole security issue to get in the way, that’s all. The rest… I completely get and you are definitely not alone in your thoughts and feelings.

What have some of your experiences been while flying with an ostomy?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.