Contacts and Carry-Ons: What About Saline?

“Contact solution is considered medically necessary

and allowed in containers in excess of 3.4oz.”

(TSA – July 21, 2017)

If you wear contact lenses and you’ve traveled by air, you’ve probably made a special trip to the store for contact-lens solution in a bottle 3.4 ounces or smaller. But that trip was unnecessary, because you could carry on a gallon of it if you wanted to lug that much. Every so often, I check to make sure the policy hasn’t changed, and the most recent was communication with the TSA on July 21, 2017.

Contact solution

You can put any-sized container of contact-lens solution in your carry-on, but at security, it must be placed in a bin by itself, and you must declare it to TSA officials.

Here’s what TSA says:

Passengers may bring prescriptions and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including petroleum jelly, eye drops, and saline solutions for medical purposes into the secured area.

Contact lens solutions are considered over-the-counter medications and are allowed in carry-on bags.  If the contact lens solution is in a container that is 3.4 ounces or less, it may be placed in a quart-sized, resealable plastic bag along with other toiletries.

Passengers are not limited in the amount or volume of these items; however, if the contact lens solution or other medical items are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces, they must be placed in a bin by themselves and declared to the Transportation Security Officer for further inspection.  These liquids are permitted to be carried in a plastic bag separate from other liquids, gels, and aerosols.

For the most current information on TSA security screening procedures, we encourage travelers to visit our Web site at www.tsa.gov (Transportation Security Administration email 8/24/2015).

Original post from April 13, 2013

I learned something new about flying yesterday, and I’m so excited, I just had to share it with you–well those of you who wear contacts and have to fly the friendly skies. The rest of you, who know people who have contacts and fly, can impress your friends with information that will make their travel experience much, much more comfortable. And if you already know about what I’m going to tell you, well, you’re just a smarty pants.

For years, when packing for a trip, I’ve had the experience of not being able to find the little bottle of saline solution that I had been saving for these trips. That is, not until I returned from the trip. Sometimes, I would just fill my contact case with saline solution in case I decided to take my contacts out during the trip and wear my glasses. But what if I just wanted to clean my foggy contacts and put them back in my tired eyes between point A and point B? Well, sometimes, I would dig out a small, empty travel container and squirt saline from the big bottle into it. But that never seemed too sanitary.

What About Slightly Larger Contact Saline Bottles?

Recently, I purchased a small bottle of saline and actually found it prior to packing for the trip I’m on this weekend. To my dismay, I realized that it was a 4 oz. container. The limit for liquid in carry-ons is 3.4 oz. Why the heck would the saline company use a 4 oz. bottle? Something sounded fishy.

So, I Googled the matter, and I found a reference to saline solutions being medically necessary with a link to this page: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/liquids-rule. However, that page didn’t specifically address saline and whether it is considered medication. I then navigated to the disabilities and medical conditions page: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/travelers-disabilities-and-medical-conditions.
But that didn’t answer the question to my satisfaction, either. It did, however, list a phone number for TSA Cares (855-787-2227), so I called it.

The woman I spoke with read the policy to me and asked me if I would like her to email it to me. What a nice lady.

Well, well, well. Apparently, contact saline solution is considered an over-the-counter medication. Who knew? Therefore, you can carry a gallon of it, as long as you place it in its own bin and “declare” it at screening. If you wear contacts, and weren’t already aware of this factoid, this will make a big difference in your future flying life.

So, when I got to the airport yesterday, I had my 4 oz. saline solution in a separate plastic bag along with a copy of the email the TSA lady sent me. Ha! Just wait for those TSA people to challenge me. They didn’t bat an eye, and all went smooth as silk.

Yesterday’s travel was a very nice experience overall. Even the knives I packed in my checked baggage made it to my destination just fine. Apparently, there are lots of interesting items that you’re allowed to put in your checked baggage. Why was I carrying knives? I’m attending a three-day natural foods intensive cooking class in Philadelphia, and we were instructed to bring some of our own equipment.

I thought you might like to read the official email from TSA, so here it is:

Actual TSA Email Regarding Contact Saline Solution

   Thank you for your e-mail [it was a phone call, but anyhow. . .] regarding the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) policy for transporting contact lens solutions in carry-on baggage.  

   Passengers may bring prescriptions and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including petroleum jelly, eye drops, and saline solutions for medical purposes into the sterile area.   

   Contact lens solutions are considered over-the-counter medications and are allowed in carry-on bags.  If the contact lens solution is 3.4 ounces or less, it may be placed in a quart-sized, resealable plastic bag along with other toiletries.  

   Passengers are not limited in the amount or volume of these items, however, if the contact lens solution or other medical items are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces, they must be placed in a bin with no other items and declared to the Transportation Security Officer for further inspection. These liquids are permitted to be carried in a plastic bag separate from other liquids, gels, and aerosols.

For the most current information on TSA security screening procedures, we encourage
travelers to visit our Web site at www.tsa.gov. 
 

We hope this information is helpful.  

TSA Contact Center  

[The Contact Center advised me about my contacts.]

 For a handy air-travel essentials packing list check out “7-Item Checklist for Air-Travel Essentials.”

 

Ann Silverthorn

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Posted in Consumer Life, Health, Travel
9 comments on “Contacts and Carry-Ons: What About Saline?
  1. Diana says:

    This is so helpful, thank you! I’m traveling next week and have been struggling to get all of my liquids into the quart sized bag. Knowing that I can put my contact solution and allergy drops into a separate bag is such a relief!

    • Ann Silverthorn says:

      Hi Diana, Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad the article is helpful. I know I stressed for years about saline solution. Nice to know we don’t have to anymore. Hope you have a good trip!
      Ann

  2. Edith says:

    thank you so, much I haven’t traveled for a while and will be soon this is great…. contact solution is always in minimum of a 4oz bottle… what a relief!

  3. Susie R. says:

    Thanks for this! The TSA guidelines were a little unclear on whether this constituted a medically necessary liquid or not and this article helped!

  4. Rachael Clifford says:

    Wow, this is so helpful, thank you! I had no idea. Now I no longer have to waste my money on those tiny bottles of contact solution :)

  5. Jo-Lynn Price says:

    Sadly I tried this on our trip to Turks & Caicos. I had no problem leaving from Newark, but was not allowed to bring the full bottle of contact solution back from Turks & Caicos. Despite my informing the security officer that it was medically necessary, he shut me down and threw the nearly full bottle away because it wasn’t 3.4oz. I emailed the TSA when I got home and informed them of the situation, and received the same reply as stated in this article. Just a word of caution that if you are coming from outside the US back home, they may not know the rules. I haven’t even tried it on domestic flights since then since solution is not cheap and I don’t feel like having it tossed again!

    • Ann Silverthorn says:

      Thanks for this info Jo-Lynn. You can never count on every security officer to know the correct procedure. I’ve never had a problem, including various international trips coming back from Europe, etc. and islands such as St. Maarten.

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