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Flying within the USA with a colostomy

Posted by survivor48, on Thu May 11, 2017 9:19 am

I have a friend who will  soon be flying from TN to N.C. and she was given two cards, one that is blue that said Urgent use of bathroom....guess that is for emergencies and a white one that she is to show to the scanners and they are suppose to take me to a private room to be "pat down".   Has anyone else flown recently and recieved these cards and do they work when needed?  


She is also scared of "blowing up" in flight which I doubt will happen but has anyone traveled recently and if so have you experienced any problems either with security or in flight problems?


I have had my colostomy for 4 years but have not flown in that time and she has not had hers a year yet and is new to this.

Reply by LadyHope, on Thu May 11, 2017 10:31 am

Good morning Survivor48, Great post!  I just returned from Memphis a month ago and flew there.  Since surgery, I have flown several times and so far, have had no real issues.  I have an ilesostomy so I do need to empty my pouch a bit more often.  What I usually do while waiting in the security line is tell one of the officers that I wear an appliance.  I am very forthcoming at the airport and even offer to show them if they have doubt.  I really do not care who hears me talk about it in the airport.  When I am traveling/flying mostly, I do not eat any huge meals that morning.  I am a breakfast eater so I keep it light so my output is minimal.  I also empty my pouch prior to boarding the plane.  I have not had any issues with ballooning which was a fear of mine too.  I used to think the pouch would burst off as the plane took off.  I do use a pouch with a filter so gas can escape, keeping the pouch as flat as possible.  Be prepared when flying too.  Remember not to check your luggage with your extra them in your carry on luggage.  You want product available in case of an emergency.  Also, I pack a change of clothing in my carry on as well.  Just in case I need to change... you understand. Enjoy your trip!  Flyiing is very doable with an ostomy. Take care.  Sincerely, LadyHope

Reply by NJ Bain, on Thu May 11, 2017 10:45 am



  Your friend will be fine.  I don't know what kind of ostomy your friend has but TN to NC is an up and down flight, that maybe will be an hour and a half flight tops.  Just tell her to use the bathroom before she gets on the plane.  I've never heard of the cards before.

  It's not a bad idea to have a change of clothes and 1 or 2 precut pouches or 2 piece or what ever she uses, as well as some wet wipes in her carry on.

  I have an ileostomy and I travel all of the time.  Here is what your friend can expect and her options.

  You can opt to have a private screening first and foremost.  You just tell the TSA agent that looks at your ID/passport and boarding pass that you prefer a private screening.  I personally don't think that's neccessary.  But for peace of mind and if your more comfortable with that, they will oblige.

  The new scanners will pick up the ostomy and what usually happens is a TSA agent will take you aside, you tell them you have an ostomy.  They will then take you aside, ask you to rub both palms on the ostomy over your shirt or blouse.  They will then take a flat sample swab, rub it on both palms and then they put the sample in their analyzer.  The analyzer will not detect a threat and you will be on your way.

  Smaller airports still only have metal detectors and you won't even have to worry.  I myself signed up for TSA Precheck.  It only costs about $140, but I do that because I travel frequently and most of the time, you go through the metal detector instead of a scanner.  And depending how long the flight is, I don't eat anything until about an hour before I get on a plane, if at all.  This way I know my ostomy won't have output for about 4 hours or so.  I've had some gas expand the bag a tiny bit but it's nothing.

  I hope this helps your friend in some way.  Please let me know if you have any other questions.



Reply by becrhomat, on Mon May 15, 2017 2:39 pm

I recently flew from Toronto to Nashville and had no problems.  I have those cards but didn't have to use them.  I was concerned with blowing up but it didn't happen.

Reply by CopInDixie, on Mon May 15, 2017 4:09 pm

I have flown a dozen times since my ostomy surgery in 1990.  Most recently was a flight to Hawaii a couple years ago.  I have never had a problem during the scanning process, and I assume they have seen millions of people with ostomies in the scanner.  The flight to Hawaii got a little sketchy when one of the bathrooms went out of service, but it all worked out as it always does.  For the comfort of others, I fly with AXE deodorant in my carry on bag, and give a quick spray in the bathroom when im done.  

Reply by Marilyn Flowers, on Wed May 17, 2017 4:16 pm

I have been an ostomate for more than 50 years and have visited all continents and 38 countries. And yes, I have done a bit of flying. If I'm chosen for a pat down, I tell them I have an ostomy appliance and point to the location. When this has happened, they look me in the eye and let me pass or have me place my hands over the ostomy. I have a card explaining the situation in several languages that I keep with my passport.  However, in the US in the last few years, you have to take everything out of your pockets, so I can't hand them the paper when I've taken it out of the passport and placed in my pocket. My ostomy is NOT the reason I choose to fly as little as possible in recent years!

Reply by paulaAZ, on Wed May 17, 2017 4:40 pm

I just returned this past Sunday from an overseas flight to Spain ... your friend will have no issues.  I have an ileostomy.  I emptied in the restroom on the plane quite a few times and what I found very helpful was to take a bottle of water with me (small one like you can get on the plane or as small as you have) and that way if there is any "residue" in the toilet after flushing you can add some water and flush again.  Of course you can also use your hands and take water from the faucet to the toilet since the darned restroom is so small LOL  

But your friend will have no issues -- ostomy bags do not inflate on a plane so there is no worry about that at all.  

As far as security -- I had a real "go getter" in Atlanta and when I told her I had an ostomy (of course it showed up on the scanner) she took that opportunity to do a complete pat down, which is fine -- I had plenty of time for my flight.  Usually they will just have you rub the outside of your clothes over your ostomy bag and then do the residual gunpowder test on your hand or something along those lines.  

I have found in my travels though (and I have flown a lot in the time since getting my ileostomy in 2015) that if you go through the walk-through scanner nothing usually shows up -- I do not even mention having an ostomy when I am going through that.  But with the body scanner that you stand and hold your arms up, it will pick up the bag.  

But bottom line -- no issues at all with traveling.  Tell your friend to get on the plane and have a great flight and great time!


Reply by Freebyrd, on Wed May 17, 2017 7:11 pm

I fly about every three months or so.  I just tell TSA, after I have gone through the scanner, that I have an ostomy.  They pat me down a little over my clothes and sometimes check my hands for residue.  I've tried telling them before I go through the scanner but it does not make a difference.  Occasionally a TSA agent goes a little board but usually they are all familiar with someone with an ostomy.  I carry a precut pouch and extra clip in my carry on.

Reply by Teramis, on Wed May 17, 2017 8:19 pm

I've heard of those travel cards before but haven't seen them. I think they would be handy to have. Where do you get them from? Are they something you can download online and print out?

Reply by GraphX12, on Wed May 17, 2017 9:03 pm
paulaAZ wrote:

I just returned this past Sunday from an overseas flight to Spain ... your friend will have no issues.  I have an ileostomy.  I emptied in the restroom on the plane quite a few times and what I found very helpful was to take a bottle of water with me (small one like you can get on the plane or as small as you have) and that way if there is any "residue" in the toilet after flushing you can add some water and flush again.  Of course you can also use your hands and take water from the faucet to the toilet since the darned restroom is so small LOL

Hi Paula,

I'm rather tall so even before my surgery I have tried to stear clear of plane restrooms. A couple of years ago we flew to Spain to visit our daughter. No issues on the flight over - can you believe not having to empty for that long?! Coming home I unwisely resisted the use of the restroom and "tried to gut it out". Atlanta customs was my downfall since a number of planes landed at the same time and as the people kept lining up the customs agents mysteriously kept disappearing. We spent 1 1/2 hours in line! By the time we went back through security I was ready to burst. Since customs took so long, we nearly missed our connecting flight as I "tried" run with a full bag to the restroom. My wife had to hold up the plane. No, I didn't burst but came as close as possible (it amazes me how durable those bags are). I can look back now and laugh Smile but at the time it was quite stressfull.

Moral is, don't try to hold it!

In my experiences - no security issues, no ballooning, ALWAYS carry my supplies with me (they can lose my luggage but not my supplies!), carry a letter from my doctor explaining my needs. But those airline seats!!!

And thanks for the water bottle tip, Paula!

Reply by Immarsh, on Thu May 18, 2017 1:13 am

Hi to all the traveling ostomates out there... 

  I'm Marsha, and have had my ostomy for more than 50 years.  My first flight was for my honeymoon, about 2 years after my surgery.    I didn't fly again for years,   but since my divorce 20+ years ago, I've flown the world.....long flights and short, commercial and 4 seaters, with no bathroom on board.  My love of travel outweighs any concerns I might have, but being prepared is the most important.   Although I pack supplies in my carry on luggage, that's usually overhead, and is enough for my entire trip.   So I make sure I put a few products (  pouches, wafers, wipes, & tape) in a zip lock bag, to keep with my purse ( tote bag).   I've never needed to change on or between flights, and I've been to Australia, Japan, China, & South Africa, as well as all over Europe, Mexico & the US.  I try not to eat heavy or fibrous foods before a flight, and although I do eat on board, I've never  had a problem with "blowing up/ breaking a seal".  Rest rooms are readily available on board, and I make sure to wear loose clothes & underwear, and I empty more often than I really need to.   Just checking.   I use to worry about scanning, but with all my travels, have only been questioned once.   I was asked if I could pull my pants up higher.  When I told them I couldn't, they let it go.   I've been "patted down" a few times, but not overtly for my ostomy.   I think my carry on full of medications, syringes ( I'm diabetic) and the c-pap machine I use, was enough reason for that.   As the Aussies worries.    Enjoy your travels.    

Reply by Dee H, on Thu May 18, 2017 6:35 pm

Hi, I have a colostomy, and I Have flown a couple of times with my colostomy.I just showed the security my card before they padded me down. But i don't yhink u have to. Most of the scanners have been educated about beople with ostomies having to where a bag under there clothes. And as for using an airplane restroom, It's difficult to use an airplane bathroom,even for people without ostomies.They r so small and crammy ,and its hard to stand still in an airplane restroom. I ate as little as possible the day before and of my flight,cause i was having anxiety about the thought of having to change my colostomy bag on an airplane.I Guess those of u who r drainers have the same fear. But dont let your ostomy keep u from traveling by plane if u have to. Life is too short. 

Reply by Sonshyne58, on Thu May 18, 2017 11:07 pm

I have flown recently and had the blue card printed and ready to give TSA.  I handed the agent my card and she asked what it was. I had to explain to her. That's what I had hoped having the card would avoid.  She had me use the back of my hand and then she used the wand to check for explosive powder I guess.  It all seemed a bit silly, but I just complied.  

The others' advice is correct.  Take your supplies in your carry on. Have another set of clothing. Watch what you eat. Plan ahead and give yourself some time before you have to board.  Empty your bag when you can.  

It's a breeze to travel... really. 



Reply by Silveradokid, on Fri May 19, 2017 8:53 pm
LadyHope wrote:

 I do use a pouch with a filter so gas can escape, keeping the pouch as flat as possible.

Hi LadyHope! Where might I find a pouch with a filter? Many thanks - Steve.

Reply by Paleoartist, on Wed May 31, 2017 8:21 am

I have flown internationally several times since I've had my colostomy and have never had any real issues. My experience has been pretty much as described above as far as the small pat down residue check. The only aggravation I've experienced was having my scissors confiscated in Kyrgyzstan. Apparently they don't follow the same rules as the TSA.

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