Traveling internationally with scleral lenses? Read this user's experience!

Posted by Rebecca Petris on

Summer is coming and people tend to have lots more travel scheduled then. It's important to know what you can, and cannot take in your carry-ons, and how to plan ahead when you know you don't want to get stuck without any of your scleral lens supplies.

For domestic US travel, the TSA has its 3-1-1 liquids rule exemption. But international travel may be much more problematic, depending where you're heading! 

The following story was shared by Nancy, a longtime PROSE user, of her experience traveling through London with preservative free saline:

Nancy's story:
I am a long-time (going on 4 years) wearer of PROSE devices which restored my vision. I regularly use "Little pink vials" of unpreserved saline for daily use. I take Purilens with me when I travel for insertion and cleaning of the devices.
I wanted to advise you of a recent situation I incurred on an overseas trip. It is a long story but i learned from it and if I can help someone else not not to have this problem, it will be worth it!
I travel a lot and recently had a bad experience with the TSA in London. I have flown both domestically and internationally and always taken my "Purilens" with me. I never had an issue. On my most recent trip, I was flying from London to another destination in Europe. (I had just flown from JFK to Heathrow, London without any issue. )
It was at the domestic UK airport, Stansted that I had an issue. In Europe, one must take all liquids and creams out and put them in clear plastic bags... (I have never had to do so in other travels, but it is the norm in Europe. People do it automatically.) I put my Purilens and shampoos and other things in a clear plastic bag in a tray.
The TSA pulled out the Purilens and advised me that the bottles were too large and I could not take them with me. I panicked. I had already checked my bag through so could not put the bottles in my suitcase. (I never did so in the past because I knew (feared) that the Purilens was irreplaceable overseas.) I argued that it was just saline solution, and was a medical necessity for my eyes. They asked for a prescription and I had none with me. I tried to find a supervisor etc. To no avail. IF i had not hidden a stash of "little pink vials" in my bag, I would have been up a creek. (I use the little pink vials on a daily basis at home but take the Purilens for filling and rinsing when I travel.) I stuck in a large supply of them to use after the 2 days I could use the opened Purliens ended.
I handed over my unopened bottles of Purilens and sent my bag through again. It turned out that they did not Xray the bag and did not find my little stash and I was good for the week I would be there. IF they had found them, i am not sure what I would have done. I did buy a bottle of preserved saline in the store at the airport...for rinsing...so I wouldnt use my stash of little pink vials up.  When I came home and looked at the Purilens bottle, it said TSA compliant. I found the card inside another box I had and read the small print : "Not all security personnel at the airport are aware of the special rules for medical-use saline." So, I will now take that card with me as well as obtain a prescription for the "little pink vials" that I will have with me. I shudder to think of what I would have done if I lost all of my unpreserved saline supply while overseas. (I wonder what Europeans do...)
I would be interested in knowing if others have had a similar experience. The next time I see my PROSE Eye doctor, I will ask what I should have done if I did not have the pink vials with me. I will ask if it will harm my devices to use preserved saline for a week. (I have used it for rinsing in the past, which they OK'd but never used it in my eyes.)

 

For clarity, we're talking about the UK's security agencies rather than TSA. I found the following link which lists their rules, incidentally:

Hand luggage restrictions at UK airports

Thank you so much Nancy for sharing your experience to help others avoid this kind of predicament! 

Love to hear from others what your experiences have been and the best ways you've found to travel with saline!

Rebecca


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2 comments

  • I travel internationally mostly to Europe. I carry 3 oz. Clear Care, Ocusoft in a small bottle, a number of vials of insertion saline, a tiny bottle of lens cleaner, and Refresh Plus vials in a small insulated shoulder bag. This is considered medical equipment, I carry it in addition to a carryon and my purse, and never have I been even asked about it. I pack my 15.9 oz. bottles of 3% H202 in my checked luggage, but I have discovered that you can buy this in pharmacies in Europe, which saves a good deal of weight in your suitcase.

    Alaire Lowry on
  • I have successfully traveled to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and England (Manchester) – as well as domestically to Alaska, Colorado, and Texas – using a separate bag labeled “Medical Liquids for Scleral Lenses.” I traveled with a small bottle of multipurpose solution and individual nebulizer vials. I also threw an inhaler, nasal drops and anything else medically related in that bag. In each case the security agent read the label, looked over the contents and sent it on its way. I am planning a trip to Tanzania next February and plan to follow the same protocol, although I like the idea of adding a note from my eye doctor. An added benefit to this approach is freeing up space in the regular 3-1-1 bag.

    Sara on

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