Travelers with Health Problems Could Face Risks from Liquid Ban

Air travelers with medical conditions may suffer dehydration or other risks because of new air travel restrictions that prohibit people from bringing drinks onto the plane, some doctors say.

Bottled water and cans of nutritional supplement drinks are among the liquids that can't be carried on board.

Such restrictions may pose some risks, starting with dehydration, said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internal medicine physician with the New York University School of Medicine.

Dehydration can place an unhealthy strain on people with diseased hearts or kidneys. The dry air in the passenger cabin also dries out the mucous membranes that help protect the body from invading bacteria and viruses.

"Though I'm not calling this life-threatening, dehydration is not a good state for anyone ill to be in," Siegel said.

The government ban does not apply to prescription medicines with labels that match the passenger's name. And jets carry medical kits that stock medicines for heart attacks and certain other emergencies.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. on Thursday began provisioning extra bottled water on all flights because of the new travel restrictions, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said Friday.

She declined to say how many bottles and how much it will cost Delta, the nation's third-largest carrier.

Patients can help themselves by staying away from coffee, alcohol and other diuretic beverages that can contribute to dehydration, Siegel said.

"Even with all these restrictions, people need not panic. It's mainly an inconvenience," said Siegel.

However, Dr. David Freedman of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, noted the problems faced by people who rely on Ensure and other over-the-counter nutritional supplement drinks.

"Some people can't eat ordinary airline food," including patients with inflammatory bowel disease or people who have recently had intestinal surgery, said Freedman, director of UAB's Travelers Health Clinic.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is allowing passengers to carry on essential nonprescription medicines, such as insulin, as well as baby formula and breast milk for infants. But Ensure is not permitted, said Christopher White, a TSA spokesman.

"While we understand these restrictions may cause inconveniences for some passengers, it is important to aviation security that we limit the exceptions," he said.

Diabetics, who must travel with essential supplies, may be especially concerned by the new restrictions. Insulin pump manufacturers say pumps can safely go through airport security systems, but pump wearers may request a visual inspection rather than walking through the metal detector or being hand-wanded, said Rachel Morgan, a spokeswoman for the American Diabetes Association.

Most planes have medical supplies that address three of the most worrisome emergencies that can occur in the air, said Joan Sullivan Garrett, founder and chairman of MedAire Inc., an Arizona-based company that provides emergency medical kits and advisory services to airlines.

They carry inhalers for asthma attacks, nitroglycerin for chest pains and many carry glucagon injections for diabetics who pass out with low blood sugar, she said.

However, federal regulations do not authorize flight attendants to administer drugs from the kits, which is why the flight crew will ask if a doctor or nurse is on board when an emergency occurs, she added.

She advised patients to carry any needed medications in labeled prescription bottles and keep them handy. "Don't assume they have it (your medication) on board or have access to it," Garrett said.


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