TSA 1: Grace: 0, traveling with ice packs

This week I was flying with the oral Typhoid vaccine.  It consists of 4 pills that are taken every other day and must be kept refrigerated (but not frozen).  Since it should be completed at least a week before needing and and since I’m rarely home for the right pattern to take the pills I figured I’d just start on Friday after receiving them.  This meant I’d take a pill Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  This also meant that I had to travel with the pills under refrigeration.  NB: always keep medications, keys, and other important items in your carry on.  This meant my laptop bag since I have to gate check my suitcase on most of my flights this week.)

I left my house on Monday and put the pills in an icepack that was already in the freezer.  I wrapped the pill box in the ice pack and put the ice pack in a basic clear plastic zip top bag.

I went through PreCheck in Charlotte so I didn’t get out any of my liquids and I went through with barely a double take.  I made it to my destination, AZO just fine.  I made sure my hotel room had a fridge and I put the ice pack in the freezer part and the pills in the fridge.

Oral Typhoid Vaccine
Oral Typhoid Vaccine

Tuesday I turned around and flew from AZO which does not have PreCheck (and also doesn’t have AIT so thumbs up).  I had been in meetings all morning so the ice pack had been outside of the fridge for about 3 hours.  I planned on adding ice when I got to the airport after I cleared security.  Then it became a matter of *IF* I cleared.

I know the 3-1-1 rules.  I know that ice packs contain a substance that goes from a solid to a liquid or gel.  I know that TSA considers frozen ice packs OK and not frozen ice packs not OK.  I didn’t realize how thawed my ice pack was already.

I put my bags on the belt.  Shoes off, laptop in a bin by itself, my normal liquids bag out and my baggie with the ice pack and meds out to prevent bag checks.

Well AZO wasn’t having the ice pack and things went from bad to worse when it alarmed on the EDT.  What in the world was in that hotel room’s freezer to cause it to alarm?  what in the world does my roommate put on her ice pack that caused it to alarm?  Maybe the actual substance had a subtle leak and that was the cause?  The world may never know.  TSA stole confiscated my ice pack.  To their credit, they did reX-ray and reswab it.  By the time they determined that since my ice pack was over 3.4 oz, was obviously a weapon of mass destruction, and had taken up 20 minutes of my time they finally thought it would be a good idea to pat me down.  The agent, Segar, was relentless and was the most thorough patdown I had received.  Even though I recited the spiel about patting down, back of the hands, point of resistance, etc she had to say it as well “Because there’s a camera right there.”  Well…she used the palm of her hand on the top of my breast and the side of the hand only for the sweeping motion around the bottom of the breast.  If I thought it actually mattered and if I thought that was the most offensive part of the big bust I would complain since the camera was just right overhead, but I don’t see the point since nothing will happen.

During the patdown she started to play SPOT, or maybe wanted to.  I doubt at that point she was trying for polite conversation because I was getting more annoyed that they waited so long to determine they needed a patdown instead of doing it at the same time as the investigation of the ice pack.  She asked if I was going home.  I said “no,” which was true.  If she had engaged me more, and since I was traveling with a package that clearly said Typhoid Vaccine, if she had prodded more I started to make up a story in my mind about why she should feel really bad about confiscating my ice pack…that I was going on a medical mission to the middle of nowhere Africa to build wells in a village with no potable water where water-borne illness kills 1 out of 4 infants or something and the risk of getting typhoid myself was quite high.  The story was getting good in my head but she actually let me go with a No so I didn’t volunteer any more.

The swabs taken from the gloves did not alarm so it was not anything I had on me causing the ETD to alarm.

It was annoying.  It was an inconvenience.  It took over 30 minutes (during the time no one besides my coworker also went through the check point since we were there very early trying to standby) but as I said…I know the rules and they enforced them.  Luckily I was taking voluntary medication and I doubt I’ll ever know if the lack of refrigeration during this process killed the bacteria or not, but it really made me wonder how people with medication that requires refrigeration handle this.  I’m sure I’m not the only person ever who wasn’t able to keep my ice pack frozen until the second I got to the airport.  I’m sure someone has maybe loaded their hands up with lotion (which is known to alarm) and handled the ice pack thus alarming as well.  Not everyone has the money, time, or ability to replace medication while traveling.

During the ordeal my coworker hit up the snack stand and got me some ice so as soon as I was able to touch my stuff the pills were back under refrigeration (albeit maybe too cold…).  At least I take the last pill Thursday morning before I fly home so I won’t have any of it.


  1. Oh – so sorry to hear that happened. I honestly think that the TSA takes things to extremes. And, as someone who has to be patted down more or less every time I fly, I can feel your pain. Most agents are very nice and considerate but every now and again you will get one who is a little too rough. I wait until they are finished and then have a quiet word with a Supervisor. Whether it does any good or not I don’t know… but it makes ME feel better! There is no need for us female passengers to be handled in such a way.

  2. I’m impressed that you could even find the oral typhoid vaccine, apparently its under shortage worldwide. I couldn’t find it anywhere and I had to drive all around my city to find the last vial of the live vaccine.

    1. That makes me double glad I got it. Passport Health Charlotte had it in stock and I was handed after I got my shots. It was one of the cheaper vaccines at $99.

Comments are closed.