Lipedema, Traveling, and the TSA:
Why You Need Not Panic the Next Time You’re Faced with an Unplanned Pat Down at the Terminal


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Let’s be honest.  Traveling and dealing with the TSA can be tedious, tiresome, and troublesome for anyone, regardless of health status.  If you’re a lipedema or lymphedema patient, the thought of triggering the TSA full-body scanners can send you into a full-blown tailspin before you’ve even boarded the aircraft. Here are some tips to help prepare you for the possibility of receiving a full-body pat down next time you’re scheduled to take flight.

Anyone who has traveled the friendly skies within the last 19 years knows the not-so-friendly, mental pain of having to deal with the TSA – the long lines, removal of clothing/shoes/jewelry, the banning of liquids, such as water bottles, drinks, and even cosmetics and toiletries weighing more than 7 ounces, and other anxiety-inducing inconveniences.  But, if you’ve found yourself with some unintended baggage in the body department before boarding, those TSA troubles can easily reach next-level fast.  When TSA installed those futuristic full-body scanners a few years back, one would think a lipedema patient’s accumulated fat buildup or a lymphedema patient’s swollen tissues posed an inherent threat to National Security.  Some lipedema patients can carry up to 3 ounces of fluid in their legs alone, triggering those pesky, ultra-sophisticated body scanners.

At-Home, Pre-Boarding Tips
Before you even head out to the airport, try these body-benefitting tricks:

  • Pack Plane-friendly Foods
    Steer clear of salty and sodium-packed foods to avoid water retention and subsequent swelling around the tissues.  Skip those scrumptious-smelling, convenient kiosks in the terminal offering nothing but super salty snacks, like mixed nuts, chips, carb-rich meals, and king-size candy bars and pack your own healthy snack stash instead.  You can easily slip baggies filled with raw veggies and a cup of plain yogurt with fresh fruit in your carry-on or travel tote.
  • Get All Wrapped Up
    Be sure you’re wearing all your compression wear prior to even getting dressed and that it fits properly for the duration of your trip.  For extra compression and comfort, wear workout wear over your compression garments.

At the Airport Advice
Once you’ve safely arrived at the airport, you will want to inquire about standing in one of the TSA-friendly “Pre-check” lanes. The Pre-check lanes may help you avoid triggering the full-body scanners that will require an agent to perform a pat down.  However, there are no guarantees you will get to stand in a “Pre-check” lane, as every airport is different.  If you’re unfamiliar with the airport you will be departing from, you should check ahead of time.  Also, keep in mind Pre-check lanes may still require pat downs of travelers, as the TSA agents are authorized to perform pat downs indiscriminately or if they feel there is a need to perform one with any passenger.  Again, you can find out all this information by speaking with an airline representative or airport operations.

The Bottom Line Before Touching Down
While most lipedema-stricken travelers reported TSA agents being courteous and compassionate during the pat down procedure with virtually no pain involved, it can still trigger an unnerving emotional response, and justifiably so.  It can be a humiliating experience for a lot of lipedema sufferers. You cannot control what happens once you arrive at the gate, but you can control what happens before by preparing and planning for anything.  Other than the aforementioned advice, there really isn’t much you can do to avoid the possibility of a pre-boarding pat down, courtesy of TSA.  Besides arriving prepped and poised, the best you can do is communicate with the TSA agents about your medical condition and explain you may experience some discomfort during the pat down.  TSA personnel are usually quite accommodating and just want to get through their shift like any other employee while making sure everyone arrives at their destination safely.  Keeping the lines of communication open throughout the process is key to keeping relaxed, calm, and positive prior to take-off.

To learn more, please contact our Beverly Hills, California office to schedule a consultation with any of our highly trained specialists.