Explosives Detected

Recently we were fortunate enough to host one of my daughters BFFs from CA. Her sweet friend stayed with us for a week and it was wonderful watching my dear daughter laugh with her friend.

Sadly the visit had to come to an end. Although this friend is past the age of ‘unaccompanied minor’ according to airline regulations we still wanted to escort the friend to her departing gate.

My husband was not able to stay home with my two boys which meant me and all my kids accompanied the friend to the airport.

Traveling with diabetes can often be a real pain in the hindquarters and much of that pain can simply be getting though the security check points at the airport. Accompanying someone to the gate with gate passes means passing through the security check points.

The airline had no problem issuing the four guest passes we needed to escort the friend to the gate. The lines for security weren’t too terrible and we had plenty of time since her flight was delayed.

My boys each wear the Animas Ping pump. My daughter wears the Tandem TSlim.

Sometimes the position of the insulin pump can effect the metal detectors. We never send the pumps through the X-ray machines – some do – we don’t.

I asked all the kids to move their pumps in the center of their bodies – in front of belly buttons. I don’t know why this makes a difference but it does.

I don’t let the kids go through the full body imaging thingy because of the pumps.

We lined up for the old-fashioned metal detector line.

I have always warned the TSA agents that my kids wear insulin pumps and will likely cause the metal detector to alarm. That way we don’t waste time with the TSA people asking kids if they emptied their pockets – blah blah blah.

In the past if the kids don’t alarm (they don’t always alarm) TSA waves us on.

My daughters pump always alarms and since she is over 13 that means a full body pat down. Its annoying but she’s normally a good sport.

This time my boys did not alarm. We should have been waved through. Nope.

The TSA agent had a bee in her bonnet. She insisted they had to swab the boys.

Me: “But they didn’t alarm”

TSA: “Its policy”

Me: “But they DIDNT alarm”

TSA: “They are wearing pumps”

ME: “You wouldn’t have known that had I not told you – you can’t see the pumps.”

TSA: “Its policy.”

Me: “Oh for the love of bubble gum”

It took nearly ten minutes for them to find a TSA agent to do a swab and pat down my daughter since it was shift change time.

FINALLY someone shows up to swab the boys. This meant they had to touch their pumps then get their hands swabbed.

Sugarboy was first. Touch pump, swab hands, insert swab strip into machine.


Oh Holy Hell.

The man with the cool mustache looked down at Sugarboy, looked at me, then looked at my other son.

Thankfully he said “its the machine. we will give it another go.”

Of course this meant waiting on a TSA supervisor to come resent the machine. Another 5 minutes. Machine reset – touch pump, swab hands, insert swab strip. All clear. Rinse repeat for Middles.

Meanwhile my daughter is waiting on a female to do a pat down. I look over and she is standing with her arms held out while the TSA agent recites a very long speal about what she is going to do during the pat down. My daughter is rolling her eyes and trying to just say “ok I’ve done this” but the lady just keeps talking.

Nearly 20 minutes after we stepped through the metal detector we were allowed to carry on.

Of all our air travels – this was by far the longest we have been detained by TSA. The worst part was we weren’t even boarding a plane.

The moral of this story –

If you have an Animas pump try placing it in front of the body just under the belly button and for the love of Pete don’t tell TSA first.

Also – plan for these possibilities when traveling by air – plan extra time because you will never know if someone peed in the TSA Cheerios earlier in the day causing some of them to be less than accommodating.

We have not used it but I have heard many in our club to have great luck with TSA Cares. If you have air travel coming up you may want to check into it.

For all my dear friends traveling to Children With Diabetes Friends For Life conference this week – I wish you safe travels and easy check points.


10 thoughts on “Explosives Detected

  1. Good golly.

    I thought I was being so smart, calling TSA cares and alerting them DAYS in advance that an insulin pump-wearing child would be coming through our airport.

    Should have just positioned the ping under the belly button.

    Next time.5dqHDt


  2. We had the machine read explosives detected on our 5 yr olds hands and kit. :/ at 3:30 in the morning and he didn’t even want his hand swabbed. It was horrible and TSA cares didn’t help at all. Stupid airport! (Sane one you went through.)


    1. I hear the Seattle airport is one of the worst regarding flying diabetes. (I keep saying that and now I have this evil image of zombiefied Tcells with wings). Pour kiddo – so much they have to deal with. I sure hope things continue to improve for our kids in time. At some point seeing an end to it all.


  3. This happened to us!!! In April we flew out of San Jose to Disneyland. We don’t let our diabetic son even go through the metal detector with his t:slim pump and a dexcom because it just results in a pat down and swab test anyways. Normally they swab his backpack and have him touch his pump and swab his hands. When they did his backpack the machine went off!!! According to the TSA agent it detected an explosive from WW2 that is not longer in existence! They laughed it off but I am certain we are on some kind of list now…


    1. Oh thats the best. Maybe your son is the Time Lord? Thanks for sharing and commenting. Sorry it took so long to approve and respond. Crazy is as crazy does lately for me. Happy future travels.


  4. You’re never swabbed? I get that every time, alarm or no alarm!

    And I had explosives detected on my clothes (not my pump or in any of my carry ons) this trip. That was fun!


    1. Oh we’ve swabbed. We have swabbed often. This was the first time explosives were detected though. Oh the joys of flying diabetes (theres a fun image for you).


  5. As a new diabetic but someone that has an unusual skill set; I use explosives, radioactive sources and induction tools in my job daily.
    I have worked with explosives for many years and it is understandable that people ping randomly for explosives, I think people see the pump as an anomaly and blame it because they don’t understand how it works and make assumptions.The swab machines at the airport detect nitrates (important part of explosives, most common being KNO3 {type of fertilizer, even trace elements of this can set of the machines} and diesel…NO3 being the nitrate), they work on something called the Nernst Equation (readings of voltage/temperature/pH…think measuring electrons, very small and easy to get wrong every now and then if the sensors are not measuring exactly right) even small shifts in temperature or anything can alter results and ping. Last time I pinged was for my det cord which is hmx (about 1500 m/sec more velocity then c4, time before that was from the fertilizer on the grass at the airport)
    Next thing; metal detectors, they are electromagnetic induction tools. Yes they detect metal using an electrical field, I use them for detecting the salinity of underground water. Not many people but some assume they harm insulin pumps…they don’t.
    My main specialty is radiation and I use it for detecting density of objects underground (like density of coal, I have 2 sources, a 7.4 GBq cesium and a 32GBq americium beryllium), I am not an expert in insulin pumps and I don’t think anyone is an expert in both (if they are then I would love to have a conversation), the reason you put your laptop through the x-ray instead of the metal detector is because it is not harmed by x-rays (this is when you start getting into electromagnetic and ionizing radiation topic), this is splitting hairs at this point, the x-ray machine and metal detector will never be powerful enough to damage your insulin pump, it’s more likely the metal detector will damage the computer in the pump then the x-ray…BUT!!!!!! Just in case! Just to negate this whole post. Keep them happy and follow all their rules, at the end of the day you could argue with them for years and they will still think 1+1=526, but they have the glove that will go where you don’t want the sun to shine.


    1. Crap David you seem like a super smart guy and one I would lose Trivia Crack with every time. Thank you for the very thorough explanation. I actually enjoyed reading all of it. I often wondered how exactly the x-ray and/or metal detectors would mess with the pumps. I can totally see how it seems more risky to walk through the metal detector wearing one than simply putting it through the X-ray machine. Still we the kids walk through. Chances are if we put them through the X-ray machine they would flag them anyway and then we would still be swabbing. Funny when we flew to OH last November neither of my boys set off the metal detector while wearing their pumps and I hadn’t told the TSA people first so the boys sailed through with no issues. My daughters pump still set it off. The boys use Animas Ping and to go through security they put their pumps in the center of their bodies and removed the metal clips.
      We don’t argue – we just smile and go with it. Thanks for the comment – sorry I hadn’t been around to approve before now.


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