The thing that passengers get wrong most frequently when passing through airport security is without a doubt what liquids can and can’t be carried. If you have ever taken a look in one of the large bins at the checkpoint you will see a huge collection of different liquid containers that passengers didn’t know they couldn’t take with them.
Mostly the rules are actually quite straightforward – any liquids must be no larger than 3.4 ounces and all your liquids must fit in a quart-sized liquids bag.
Fortunately, if flying with a baby, a young child or with liquid medications there are exceptions to these TSA liquids rules which I will explain below.
What are the liquid rule exceptions?
In the following situations, you can take larger quantities than 3.4 ounces. You should do the following:
- They do not have to go in a liquids bag
- They should be taken out of your carry on and be placed separately in one of the trays to be screened separately
- You should also inform the TSA security officer that you have them
Flying with medication
The rules are also relaxed for passengers who need to take any form of liquid medication with them. such as inhalers and spare inhaler cartridges.
Within the US, the Transportation Security Administration medication rules 2021 state that you do not normally need to declare to the security agent under the current regulations that you are carrying prescription medications except in the following circumstances:
- If you are carrying medically necessary liquids in original prescription bottles, and the bottles are larger than the normal 3.4oz/100ml liquid limit, then you will be able to take them with you as they are considered medically necessary liquids. Ideally they should be in the original prescription bottles or you should at least have a copy of the prescription to show, just to be on the safe side.
- You should tell the security agent you have the liquid medication before it goes through the X-ray machine and it will then be screened separately. You may be asked to open the container for further security screening. The liquid medication does not need to go in your quart sized liquids bag.
- If you have medication in the form of a gel or aerosol spray that is larger than 3.4oz/100ml then you should also bring these to the attention of the security officer before security screening.
- If for some reason, you do not want your medication x-rayed then you may ask the security agent for it to be checked visually instead. Obviously, you need to make this clear before the items go through the security screening machine.
There are certain types of prescribed medication that need to be kept cool, usually in a refrigerator, in order that they do not start to break down and become unusable. This includes things such as Insulin, some eye and ear drops, certain antibiotics etc.
You are permitted to bring ice packs with you to keep medications and any other form of liquid medical items cold. But you must declare the ice packs to the security officer before they travel through the X-ray machine.
Flying with a Baby
Fortunately, the rules regarding what liquids can be taken through airport security are relaxed for passengers who are traveling with a baby or young child. If they weren’t it would make going on a plane with a baby very difficult, particularly if it was a long flight.
Babies need special food, baby formula and perhaps breast milk as well as products to clean the baby when changing diapers. So what extra can you take with you for your baby?
The Transportation Security Administration has a whole section on its website dedicated to what you can take with you if you are flying with a baby – https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children
- Baby formula
You are permitted to take baby formula that is already made up as well as additional to make up later. You should not take more than you may need to until you get to your final destination.
- Breast milk
You are permitted to take breast milk in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) and sufficient for your entire journey. You will also be ok if traveling with frozen breast milk.
Interestingly, although you need to have a baby with you to carry made-up formula, juice etc through the security checkpoint, you do not need to have one with you if flying with breast milk through.
You may take food for the baby during your journey which includes jars of baby food that would normally be treated as liquids.
- Juice and water
Juices and water for the baby may be taken through security.
- Gel or liquid-filled teethers
Although these contain what would otherwise be treated as other liquids they are exempt.
You can take things such as Johnsons baby lotion to use when changing the baby’s diapers and any other essential lotions and creams in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces.
If you want to keep the breast milk, formula etc cool when flying then you can keep these in a separate small cooler bag. You can also have ice packs in the cooler bag but they should be frozen and not already defrosted.
X-rays and baby food
If you are concerned that the baby’s milk or for will be x-rayed then the TSA state the following: “The Food and Drug Administration states that there are no known adverse effects from eating food, drinking beverages and using medicine screened by X-ray.”
If you are still not convinced you can tell the security agent that you do not want the formula, breast milk and/or juice to be X-rayed or opened.
Do contact lenses need to go in the liquid bag TSA?
Although not strictly medication, you can take saline solution (for contact lenses or other applications) in a container that is larger than 3.4 ounces.
Just make sure you take it out of your carry on and tell the security agent you have it.
You can also carry your contact lenses in a lens container with liquid in it without putting this is the liquids bag.
At the moment, due to the situation, you can take hand sanitizer through the security checkpoint which is larger than 3.4 ounces and which doesn’t have to go in your liquids bag. These containers of hand sanitizer should be no larger than 12 oz
Although in most situations you would not be taking your duty-free alcohol and perfumes through airport security as the duty-free shops are found after you pass through.
However, if you have flown into the US from overseas and then need to catch a domestic flight to your final destination you may need to pass through another security checkpoint, particularly if you had to change terminals or even change from an international to a regional airfield.
If you have duty-free in liquid form then you will be permitted to take it through the security checkpoint again if it is unopened and the tamper-proof packaging, known as tamper-evident bags, supplied to you at the duty-free shop is undamaged.
If you are taking your goldfish on vacation with you then you will be pleased to hear that when transporting live fish in your carry on they can be in more than 3.4 ounces of water and do not need to go in a liquids bag.
See my post Can you take live fish on a plane?