Airport Security and Colostomy Bags


Ok! A bit of positivity here.. I've booked a trip to Italy for a week.. But it's the first time I've been on the holidays since surgery.. What happens when they do a search on me and they feel the bag?? Just don't want them thinking I have a bomb on me etc :/ Anyone had any situations like this?? How do they tend to deal with it or will it just show up on the x-ray scanners and they are trained to recognize such things..

Cheers :)


I personally have experienced no difficulties with my urostomy with regard to airport security and I have traveled extensively worldwide. My worst experience (if you can call it that) was when a young man on security at Heathrow Airport emptied out my hand luggage in full view of other travelers which included my spare flanges etc and he demanded to know what they were used for. I was mildly embarrassed and he seemed slightly perplexed but was happy enough with my explanation and let me through.

I have been through the 'naked' scanners and have held my breath but I have never been taken aside. I frequently get 'patted down' going through the metal detector thing. At first, I used to worry that the official would feel my bag and I would be embarrassed or flustered. However, every pat down I have received has taken seconds and to be honest, if they have felt the bag, they have not acted on it. Now I am totally unconcerned with airport security on a personal level, I think this is a mixture of age and experience! And if I do ever have to explain myself, well, it's better for the security officials to be safe rather than sorry. I remind myself they are for the good of us all. I have heard in the past of some sort of travel card for people with an ostomy - this gives information on the subject and can be presented to security staff to help with explanations. I have never bothered with this. I expect in this day and age security staff are aware of ostomies and have encountered at least one?

I hope the above brings you a bit of reassurance and hopefully you will get responses from people who have had more challenging times at airports, just to get both sides. Most of all, I hope you enjoy your trip to Italy.

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Thank you so much for the info! It wasn't the embarrassing part which was an issue. I'd be happy just to whip it out and explain as I'm not embarrassed by it, to be honest haha! Just wanted to know what to expect as it's unknown to me :) Where can I get an ostomy card from? Might come in handy in case I get mardy hahahah!


I've travelled quite a bit within the US since I've had my ostomy and there has never been a problem. It usually shows up on the x-ray thing, so they take me aside, ask me to touch the area where my pouch is, then they do some tests on my hands. It only takes a couple of minutes at best. Most of the security folks are pretty knowledgeable about it. I would assume it would be the same in Europe. I think the ostomy clinic gave me a card, but I've never used it (don't even know where it is).

Happy travels!



Ostomy declaration card UK

I googled the above and saw a link to Securicare near the top of the page. This link gives info on the declaration card for people with ostomies. I hope this helps.

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This is the one I use. It is in 5 languages. I have only used it once in Mexico.


I might go to my doctor and ask him to write a letter. :) Will my output be much higher if I'm in a foreign country?


I was scared stiff the first time I flew! But it's okay. You can get a card in four different languages from your stoma people to show at the airport. You'll be fine.


I have only flown in the USA, but most times they don't find my bag. I have a urostomy bag and I usually have to tell them I have it. A couple of times I just kept my mouth shut. They don't seem to find it when they pat you down. I only tell them so I won't get hurt. Good luck and enjoy your trip.


Past Member

Snowy100 - You can ask for a private room for the pat down and search if needs be. Because it does appear to the TSA that you are perhaps hiding something, they will ask to search you more thoroughly. No need for any stress, just be ready for the request if/when it happens! With me that is 100% of the time.

P.S. We went to Rome/Florence a few years ago. It was the trip of a lifetime for us. Enjoy!


I went to Europe in August, and in Munich I knew I would have a problem as they only had the full body scanners. I asked to be taken to a private area, where 2 young girls were completely unfamiliar with my appliance. Very frustrating. There is a form you can download from the ostomy society but I do not know what good it would do if nobody understands English. Just be prepared and don't let it spoil your trip. If they have the regular scanners you will be fine, but I expect things are on high alert these days.



I had the full body scan at Baltimore airport and no one said a word about my ostomy but sent me over to be patted down. Male about 30 and female that looked barely old enough to drink. I let them know I had an ostomy and the male was just, oh ok. We've had a few come through. He turned behind him to let the female know and she had the most disgusted look on her face. I told her that nothing gross was going to touch her but she might want to look for a new line of work because I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE!


It is a bomb! Haven't you had a blow up yet?


This has been my experience as well - they had me touch the bag area then used some sort of scanner to detect bomb-making stuff. I thought they acted more embarrassed than me!


I fly frequently and until recently I have had no issues. During my last flight, they did the normal procedure with me touching my pouch area and then scanning my hand with a material and then putting it in the machine to test. This time they said it tested positive, which I don't believe, and I was taken into a private room by two security personnel for a search. I think the search was a training session for the new security person. Anyway, for the most part, I have had no issues. Penguins7



I've not had any problems at airports with either the full body scanner. I was worried I would, but no one batted an eyelash!

Just prior to a pat down, I've said, "I have an ostomy bag on my right side, you will feel that." Some have made an effort to avoid it (maybe they were afraid of touching it). I always make sure it's emptied before clearing security.

I have traveled with a letter from my doctor but never had to produce it. Better safe than sorry.

I find with airport security people, the more upfront and honest you are, the better it goes. I've never been asked to step aside or go to a private room. If I was, I would be nervous, but keep in mind, they are doing their job. They don't know me, and I don't know them. I may not be Angelina Jolie, but in that case, when it comes to getting checked out at the airport, I am one in a million! :)


Thank you to everyone :D I can't wait now, just one more question: has anyone had any problems abroad with a stoma??



I've never had a problem and I've flown several times. Both long (4hr+) and short flights. Just last week on a short hop - New York to South Carolina and back. No problems with TSA or the storm in flight. I would suggest that you empty or change the bag before boarding and eat lightly prior to be on the safe side.

Best of luck


I always carry a photocopy of a certificate of permanent colostomy from my surgeon when I travel. Just in case.


I traveled with mine. You can get on the Transportation site and download a certificate about your appliance that you keep in your passport. They take you aside and check you separately, and they were very respectful with me. It was quick and painless!


I travel frequently and haven't had any issues at the airport. When they tell me that I've been randomly selected for either a search or to stand in the round X-ray machine, I notify them then that I have a bag attached to my abdomen and I've never had a problem. They've always been very respectful. Hope you don't encounter any sort of problems.


In late September, I will be doing long-haul flights to Kenya, my first trip since my colostomy. From home to the airport to arriving in the national park in the bush, it will be about 32 hours. Thus, I know I will need to empty and rinse my bag a few times along the way. Are we allowed to bring peribottles on board the flights to rinse/spray out the bags? Are small 3" sized Lysol air sprays allowed to freshen the lavatory before leaving? I know scissors are not allowed, so all my wafers will be pre-cut. The thing that could complicate things is that Kenya has banned plastic bags where one can be arrested or fined, so going through Customs should be interesting. Thus, I had my surgeon write a letter asking that my medical supplies be exempt from this law.

Past Member

I travel domestically, and did experience some awkward moments going through the full body X-ray. TSA suggests telling them before you go through that you have a medical device and get a private screening. Takes a minute but is discreet. Best is paying for TSA Pre Check. Just walk through the metal detector. Soooo much easier for ostomates. I have had an ileostomy for 25 years. Good luck and safe travels.

Past Member

Do you ever travel to Toronto?

Past Member

Outside of the US. And what's your experience?

Past Member

I travel all over the world. I advise security that I have an ostomy (if I'm pulled for additional screening) and of course they already know as they see my supplies in my carry-on luggage. I won't go through the X-ray and elect pat down. I tell them to not pat my stoma, and they do anyway. When they do, I let them know just how intrusive that is.

Hi Happygirl, I will be in Toronto on Sunday, April 28. You can reach me at