August 10, 2006 — -- The highly restrictive carry-on rules in force today at airports could put many passengers' health at risk, especially those who suffer from chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes, a doctor warned.
Plus, the long lines and anxiety could exacerbate health conditions. But as of 2 p.m. Thursday, only Denver International Airport reported any related incidents -- a 79-year-old man collapsed in a security line that was massively backed up, according to Network News Service.
People have been told to not bring any liquids or gels onboard. The Transportation Security Administration said most medicines are allowed, but they "must be presented for inspection at the checkpoint." It's not clear how security personnel are applying the rules, nor whether passengers are allowed to take liquid medications, such as nitroglycerin, onboard.
Nitroglycerin is taken for angina, a form of severe chest pain caused by heart disease, said Dr. Randy Wexler, a family physician at Ohio State University. Nitroglycerin comes in either tablet or spray form, and it's related to an explosive compound, which could make some people nervous to bring it onboard.
But patients should keep it on them at all times and take as soon as chest pain occurs. Having patients pack it in their luggage could be very dangerous, Wexler said. Also, requiring a patient to take a spray dose to prove that it's real could also prove harmful. (The TSA has said that parents must drink their babies' formula to prove it's not tainted.)
Also, Wexler said diabetics on insulin should not change their dosings or eating schedules just because of travel delays. Same is true for asthma patients who need their inhalers.
The American Diabetes Association issued a statement today that addressed the concerns about the difficulty of boarding planes with insulin or insulin pumps. In light of the new rules, it has updated its Web site with the latest advice availablehere.
"I always tell my patients [medications] need to be on your body, they need to be carried through," Wexler said. "This could place a lot of people at risk. How the TSA handles this -- we'll have to wait and see."
If possible, the best thing travelers can do is bring a doctor's note written on the doctor's office letterhead, Wexler said. Or ask that your doctor speak with security personnel on your cell phone.
Besides those concerns, the stress of traveling under threatening conditions can be unhealthy, too.
"People are just stacked up like cords of wood waiting to get through," Wexler said."...Heat, panic attacks, increased adrenaline, rapid heart rate, it's all a concern."