Airport Security Search with Ostomy - Share Your Experiences

Aug 15, 2011 2:55 am

Has anyone been searched when going through the airport security line? On a trip from Detroit to upstate NY a few weeks ago, I was searched after TSA saw my bag when I went through the X-ray. A very serious TSA agent told me to wait where I was until two females came and took me to an office for the search. I could tell that they felt very awkward and were apologetic. I tried to lighten the atmosphere by telling them that I only had poop in the bag. They patted me down from the back and the front and then wanted to see the bag. I pulled it out and they ran a product that looked like a Ban roller deodorant stick over my hands and there was no reaction, so they knew there was no chemical in there, I guess. They apologized for the delay and sent me on my way. Fortunately, the airport in Albany did not have an X-ray scanner, so I didn't need to repeat the experience on the way back.

I asked the ladies if a letter from my doctor would keep them from doing the search. They said no. Would love to hear if anyone has had similar experiences. Take care all, I love this site. It gives me very helpful and encouraging info.

Aug 15, 2011 3:09 am

You may encounter this type of problem, Barb, in smaller airports where TSA staff is less likely to be properly trained. In the past year, I traveled from major airports to the Near East and to our Southwest without any issues. You can get an ostomy card from UOAA to show airport officials; but, without proper training, these screeners are hopeless lunks. The real answer lies in the type of behavioral profiling practiced by the Israelis. There is no need to inspect great grandmother's Depends when political correctness is relegated to the trash-heap it deserves.

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Aug 15, 2011 11:04 am

I was stopped by an overzealous security man and taken to a room for inspection. He called his boss, but they were not aware that I had been to my stoma nurse and she supplied me with some new bags where the front section is clear. When I dropped my trousers, they nearly passed out. They hastily got rid of me, no apology! Serves them right, Bebe.

Aug 15, 2011 11:33 am

Convatec sent me free samples, a video, and 2 cards to take when traveling. One of the cards was to show security at the airport that I have an ostomy. The other card was to let the flight attendants know I have an ostomy, in case they don't let you use the bathroom, but you need to empty.

Aug 15, 2011 2:26 pm

Thanks for your comments, I'll see about getting an ostomy card. Yikes, there's never a dull moment in this world.

Living with Your Ostomy | Hollister
Aug 15, 2011 3:47 pm
I love to hear about these sorts of experiences and would like to see a blog requesting suggestions for quick (preferably funny)quips to relay to over zealous security people.In my experience they rarely have a sense of humour - but I do! and the funnier it sounds the better the stories to take home and relate to friends later.Best wishesBill
Aug 15, 2011 8:40 pm

I recently flew to Cancun and back and had no problem. In fact, I found that the security people in Toronto and Edmonton were more polite than usual. There have been a lot of complaints in Canada about the crass attitude of security people at Canadian border crossings and airports. Maybe they finally got the memo.

Aug 15, 2011 9:17 pm

Dear Barb: I know how you feel. I was terrified to fly after having my ileostomy, especially when I heard about the man who had been physically searched and they pulled his bag off! I had to fly from Pittsburgh to Denver and had printed down the ostomy card and had my doctor sign it. I had even called a TSA agent the day before to see if there was anything I could do to prevent being searched in public. She said that most TSA agents are very kind and not to be worried. Just show them the card and tell them that the pouch will show on the x-ray machine, but if they'd like to search me, they could do it in a separate room. You are also allowed to have someone you are with go into the room with you. As I was waiting in line, I thought I'd have a stroke before getting to the TSA agent. There were so many people around me, I thought I'd never make it through. When I got to the front of the line, I explained I had a card from my doctor and this was my first flight since having my ostomy, and I was scared to death. There were two agents there, and one said, "Please do not worry. I will handle everything." He took both my husband and me to the front of the line, even got the basket for me, and put me through the x-ray without any problem at all. He said his dad has a pacemaker and is always terrified to go through the line. I could have kissed that man; he was so nice. Upon leaving Denver to come back to Pittsburgh, I went to show my card to that TSA agent, and she wasn't nearly as nice but just said, "Go ahead, we don't even have an x-ray machine." Hopefully, you will have a good experience too. I think it's just like anything else. There are really exceptionally nice people, and there are exceptionally rude people in the world, and some days are good, and some days you get the bad ones. I sure hope your day is good. Nancy

Aug 15, 2011 11:33 pm

Hi Barb, Primeboy is correct. I traveled to Italy in February, and was concerned as I have both an ostomy and a (PEG) feeding tube. Can you imagine the panic of the TSA if I appeared on the X-ray like a bionic woman? I felt I would be seized as a terrorist and miss my flight! Fortunately, I was never required to go through the X-ray...we had an option, and I had no problem. The only time I had a humiliating experience was in Toledo, Ohio when they did a thorough pat-down. Go figure! Keep traveling! Susan

Aug 16, 2011 12:11 am

Interesting. I also live in Michigan and have flown from Detroit Metro to Paris in February and to London this June. I had gotten a letter from my surgeon which I clutched and crossed my fingers. I was never asked to go through the X-ray scanner...only the metal detector. I feel like I dodged a bullet. I will also follow up with Convatec (I use their products after all) and get the vid and card. I agree with others though: keep traveling! Lynn

Aug 16, 2011 2:45 am

Unfortunately, I did not attend the UOAA conference in Reno last week as planned. If I did, I would have asked association officials what they have done to ensure that TSA officials respect our situation. Perhaps UOAA folks are in touch with influential Transportation Committee members who can curb these excesses. If each of us were to send a brief email to his or her own representative in Washington, I bet we would turn things around fast. I plan to ask my rep and senator to introduce legislation protecting ostomates from unreasonable airport searches. Why don't you? Make your influence count.

Aug 16, 2011 3:25 am

Great idea, Primeboy. I will do it.

Aug 16, 2011 3:54 am

Barbief, I have traveled this past year to Japan and England and of course had to go through the pat-down, etc. The intensity appears to vary from one airport to another. Leaving from NY was no problem. I had my biggest delay at Wash. Dulles airport. I had to go through twice and finally the agent asked me. My problem is that the agents tend to be ill-informed and some are clueless as to what an ostomy is. I think a little education would do a lot to lessen the anxiety. But you know something, it goes beyond the extreme sometimes. My son, who travels quite a bit with his family, has had his two and a half-year-old daughter patted down at some airports. The reason he is told is that it is not beyond some people to hide bombs in young children. So sad. What has the world deteriorated to?

Aug 16, 2011 3:52 am

Don't want to be the most-hated ostomate, but just because someone has physical issues, doesn't mean that person isn't a terrorist. I haven't been on a plane since my ileostomy over 2 years ago but if and when I take that step, should I be searched, I hope that I can take it in stride like so many others on this site. From everything I've read, it seems like the big issue is the attitude of the TSA agent. I love Primeboy's point about political correctness and the use of the word unreasonable in your second post. I have mixed feelings about someone being singled out for a search only because of the bag. On one hand, I think we should only be searched if we would have been picked out without the bag. On the other hand though, if we were allowed to just go through with a bag and a doctor's note (which can always be forged), I have no doubt that some smart terrorist would eventually come up with the idea to just slap a bag on his or her physically normal body. I seemed to have strong ideas when I started this, though now it seems like I'm just babbling. Guess I just want to make the point that I think an ostomate should be treated like any other person, but realistically, we're not just like everyone else. Thanks for the forum to babble.

Aug 16, 2011 6:30 am
After many trips to New Zealand from the UK via the USA I decided that enough was enough of the absolutely appalling treatment of 'in transit' passengers by the USA airport authorities. Since travelling in the other direction, avoiding the USA I have been pleasantly surprised by the friendliness and courteousness of the staff. This had nothing to do with ostomies but more to do with rules, regulations, personalities and attitudes.I don't think it would bother me much if someone wanted to search me or even requested me to remove my bag, as long as they were understanding, friendly and couteous about it. As Lalu points out, they have a job to do to keep all travellers safe. Disguising explosives as poo would be a novel way of getting them past security. I know that my bag has on a few occasions 'exploded' but I would very much hope that it didn't happen on a plane.My reasons for not travelling recently have been more to do with the CPAP machine and all the equipment needed as hand luggage than it has to do with having an ostomy. I say if you want to travel go prepared but enjoy it. Otherwise it isn't worth it!Best wishes Bill
Aug 16, 2011 11:23 am

I recently went through an X-ray machine for the first time. It was at DFW (Dallas/Ft Worth). As soon as I got up close enough, I told the TSA officers near the machine that I had a urostomy pouch and explained what it is. They thanked me for letting them know. A man was at the machine when I went through. He turned to a woman officer behind him who was waiting for me and gestured on himself as to the position of the bag, then politely asked me to go to the woman. She had positioned herself at a solid divider and had me stand in such a way that, though we weren't in a private room, no one could see what we were doing. She asked me to pat (over my clothes) the area where the bag is, then she tested my hands and lightly patted where I had. With no clothes disturbed, she thanked me and sent me on my way. I agree with some of the others. It is most likely the training of the TSA agents, but also the personalities of the agents you happen to catch. These weren't just professional, they were genuinely - that spelling doesn't look right ;-) - nice people. I travel out of Manchester NH, which doesn't yet have the X-ray machine and of late only fly back and forth to Dallas or Florida once or twice a year. I can only hope I have as pleasant an experience every time, but will keep my sense of humor even if/when I don't. It's the only way to fly - pun intended. Hope y'all are able to stick with that sense of humor as well.

Aug 16, 2011 12:18 pm

It seems travel from/to Europe and Asia has less hassle than in the US and Canada, since my colostomy in 2009 I've traveled to Turkey, Oslo, Taipei, Japan, Athens without problems. In England, there are lots of agencies that help to bring awareness of colostomy. An Ostomy card and GP's letter work well in European countries. I am getting worried now as I will travel to New York and Seattle in November after my new ileostomy in June. What should I be more aware of in the airport or any identification can prevent such embarrassing searches in airports? Thanks, Jo

Aug 16, 2011 10:27 pm

I have flown several times this year and got searched each time I went through the X-ray machine. I also asked about a letter from a doctor, and they said even a letter from the president of the airlines would do no good. They pulled me into a private room and checked me.

Aug 17, 2011 1:01 am

I applaud and envy all of you who can pick up and go. I've traveled by car, but will only stay in hotels/motels. I won't stay in anyone's home. Overall, though, after over 2 years, I'm still a hermit. I'd like to believe that part of that is due to getting a double whammy - waking up to a surprise ileostomy and unexpectedly losing my hubby within one year was just a little too much for me. I always thought I was a much stronger person than I really am and feel quite disappointed in myself. Sorry - this sounds like it should be on a separate page, but what the hey!

Aug 17, 2011 4:07 am

Lalu, it is our choice where to stay on a trip. If friends are kind enough to invite me... I stay with them. Luckily, most have a sense of humor... or should I say, scents of humor. One of them even supplied me with an attractive purse-size spray bottle she found called No2 by Poo-Pourri. On the back of the bottle it says, "Spray the Loo Before No2 and No One Will Ever Have a Clue." I carry it in my handbag all the time. It is made in Dallas, Texas. I'm sorry about your double whammy... I believe you must be a strong woman!

Aug 17, 2011 6:10 am

Thank you for your kind words, lonestarszq. Luckily, I have very little odor except when I don't shower for a week :-) While I have a pad on top of my sheet (each side is about 28") and use 2 that overlap when I'm away, I'm terrified of the thought that if I have a leak, it's going to be the mother of all leaks, and I'll ruin something in that person's house. In a hotel/motel, the very worst scenario is I have to strip the bed, flip the mattress, and remake the bed with sheets taken off a housekeeping cart. Confession time - I know how this is done since, before the surgery, this happened during a Crohn's flare-up. Just in case any part of this site is monitored by any law enforcement agency, this happened quite a number of years ago, so I'm sure the statute of limitations for pooing a motel mattress is long over. Sorry. Didn't mean to get into a lesson in what to do with motel poo. Every time I've had a resection, I was walking, at least a little, pretty much after waking up. After 2 resections and an ileo in less than 2 weeks, recovery was so slow and months later, not too long after telling husband I wanted to start driving again, he was gone, which set me way, way back. I spent most of 2 years in bed, more from depression than anything else. That's why I say I'm disappointed in my lack of strength. Here I am, still babbling. It's that kind of week.

Aug 17, 2011 11:34 am

Traveling with an ostomy is not as bad as traveling with Crohn's before surgery. I remember those good old days of explosive accidents! I'm sure we could share some horror stories! :-) Now I know you are a strong woman! Anyone who can flip a motel mattress in the middle of the night is a survivor! I have had a few problems with leakage...especially with a gas attack. When I'm in a situation where I can't release the air -- like on an airplane -- I have had my appliance blow off my side. Appliances that have the air filters do not work for me as anytime liquid poo hits the ceases to work. Filters do nothing for the odor, anyway! I learned the hard way it is best not to get a window seat on a plane, but always opt for an aisle seat for a quick getaway! Your depression is understandable! Losing your best support system after two resections must have been unbearable; so, don't be disappointed in yourself for a natural response.

Aug 17, 2011 3:21 pm

Hi, I was patted down in K.L. Malaysia with the most respect, I must say, and wasn't embarrassed at all. It was my fault, I had eyebrow pluckers in my back pocket, I forgot I had them. Duh! The woman seemed more upset to have to pat me down than I was. I said sorry to her, lol. She just smiled, it was all good. Lalu Hollister 78500 deodorant is the best for no smell. I would guarantee I can eat fish and have no smell whatsoever. This company should pay me, hahaha. I do some work for the local ostomy association in Aust. It really works, just some small squirts. If you could get some, there are quite a few different things on the market, sweety. Don't hesitate to ask anyone, always happy to help another osto. ..mooza Australia xxxx Lonestarzq. I also have liquid output, I use ileo gel to thicken the liquid. Small satchels turn it into a gel. Fantastic! Yes, Crohn's sucks, argggg. If you can get your hands on the ileo gel and Holl. deodorant, give it a go. Can't hurt!! xxxxxxxxxxxx :)

Aug 29, 2011 1:58 am

The UOAA has a travel card approved by the TSA. It is blue in color, as approved by the TSA. It can be downloaded from for free. Remember, it will not stop a search, but it will make the officer aware that you have an ostomy. Remember, keep the blue color so the TSA will recognize it.

Nov 03, 2011 3:21 am

Hi Barb... I've made several hundred trips since having my ileostomy in 1989, and have yet to be patted down or otherwise searched (knock on wood). One thing to remember, always drain the pouch just prior to going through the screening. And... Get the UOAA travel card. Take care, good luck and God bless. Bruce