Traveling with Traditional SCIG
By Nufactor - July 1, 2022
Has it occurred to you that a patient might not know that they need to pack a sharps disposal container when traveling and may find themselves scrambling to find a way to dispose of used needles while on vacation?
During subcutaneous immunoglobulin (SCIG) visits, education becomes the number one priority on our agenda. We discuss disease states, side effects, expected outcomes, site rotations, storage, emergency situations, etc., with the patient, typically within three visits! Then the patient becomes independent, and you don’t ever hear from them again, and that’s a good thing because it means you’re one AWESOME teacher.
With summer just around the corner, here are some useful tips that you can share with your patients to help their travel plans go smoothly.
Medication Travel Kit
Have the patient build a Medication Travel Kit that meets airline requirements for a Carry-On or Personal Item. Advise them not to check in the kit since sometimes, baggage will make it to a destination, but the passenger will not, or vice versa. The kit can be used for both air and land travel. Using a small, easy-to-carry bag would be ideal, like an insulated lunch bag. The options for lunch bags are endless and vary from cross-body, multi-compartment, integrated gel, and more. Here is a sample of a bag that has enough room to carry a FREEDOM60® Pump - www.amazon.com/dp/B08Z39KHJH
What to Pack in the Medication Travel Kit
Air Travel - Domestic within the U.S. and Hawaii
Patients should always get the latest information and specific requirements from each airport they plan to travel through. The following is a guide with helpful tips.
- A Physician’s Letter for Travel or Letter of Medical Necessity: Most of the time, carrying medication in its original container with the prescription label will suffice; however, TSA varies with degrees of verification. For air travel, having the additional documentation can help the process move a little faster. Here is a sample letter (www.immunecompetence.org/travel-letter) in case the prescriber needs some guidance in writing a letter. Ensure the prescriber writes the information on official letterhead with their full contact information in case someone has questions.
- A copy of the prescription
- TSA Notification Card (Disabilities and Medical Conditions | Transportation Security Administration (tsa.gov))
- TSA Processing:
- Have all required (Letter of Medical Necessity and a copy of the prescription) and suggested documents (TSA Notification Card).
- Always declare medication to TSA officers and advise if the amount of drugs is more than what is allowed in a carry-on. Typically, the 3.4-ounce rule doesn’t apply to prescribed medication.
- I did extensive research on the effects of radiation on immune globulin (IG), and I found nothing stating or advising against running it through airport X-ray machines. I also reached out to known manufacturers to confirm my finding, and I was provided with the following information: Effects of Airport X-Ray Scanners on Gamunex®-C
- Pack extra supplies: Patients should always plan accordingly. SCIG infusions typically are done one to two times per week. Advise the patient to carry an extra dose and supplies in case something unforeseen occurs, and the patient cannot travel back home on time.
- SCIG infusion checklist: Patients can develop a checklist with all supplies needed for a SCIG infusion, including:
- Sharps disposal container: Patients can inquire if the airport and hotels have sharps disposal containers available for used needle disposal, or they can pack a hard plastic container to carry used needles until they can dispose of them properly. There are also some travel-size sharps disposal containers available that can be packed in the Medication Travel Kit: www.amazon.com/dp/B079TBNYFF/
Also, note that most specialty pharmacies can provide a travel-size sharps disposal container if requested with enough time.
- Hand Sanitizer: If the patient finds themselves in a situation where they don’t have access to soap and water and they are overdue for an infusion, hand sanitizer would be great to have on hand. Or even just to use while switching from one task to another in an area that’s not the patient’s home.
- Pump Bag: The carry bag given to patients with their FREEDOM60® pump will offer them “freedom” while traveling. The bag allows patients to travel freely at any time and won’t restrict them to one area to complete their infusion.
- Check out this sample checklist: SCIG Travel Checklist
Air Travel - International
Ask your patient to keep in mind that international travel will require more preparation and research to ensure all criteria are met to travel with medication. They need to confirm if their medications, including IG, are allowed in countries they will pass through or visit. Each country has different laws and rules detailing what is allowed to cross its borders. Some common medications in the U.S. and Europe are considered controlled substances in other countries.
Traveling by land is not as hectic as traveling by air, and all the previous recommendations can be employed, especially the suggestion to build a Medication Travel Kit. Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise quickly and higher than allowed, even for medications stored at room temperature (maximum 77oF).
Traveling with SCIG medications and supplies is not something a patient needs to dread. With proper planning and organization, the task can be very easy and enjoyable. Here are a few more tips to consider while traveling:
- Place supplies in a hard plastic container with a lid to keep all supplies in place. This can also include a sharps disposal container for used needles in case one isn’t available.
Note: It must be hard non-penetrable plastic, not thin water bottle plastic.
- Know if your medication can travel at room temperature or if it must be kept cool.
Note: When using ice packs, never place them directly on medication, as it might freeze the medication. Always check with the manufacturer for the best storage and handling recommendations.