Everyone knows that airport security has increased dramatically since the 9/11 attacks, and things that we could once take on an airplane, such as a six-ounce bottle of mouthwash, are no longer allowed. My wife and I were surprised though to find that she had something in her carry-on bag would cause such a stir that she would be detained until the explosives experts could investigate!

We were flying home from Chicago Sunday after attending a two-day FlyerTalk seminar on mileage runs, hotel loyalty programs, etc.

My wife had an ACE™ bandage in her bag. You’ve probably seen these for sale at your local drugstore. They are made by 3M and are a reusable cold compress that can help any part of the body that needs cold therapy. Suffice to say, they are pretty innocuous, or so we thought.

We were going through the TSA security check-in at O’Hare: this was my first opportunity to go through the full body scan X-ray machine. Mrs. Happyflier went through first and I noticed they they had pulled her over to the side and were examining her with the wand. Then they had a female agent give her a pat-down search. Very odd!

And then the female agent called for a supervisor. Now I was puzzled and wondering what the heck was going on. I was surprised to find out what the problem was.

She had an ACE bandage in her carry-on and there is apparently something in that product that looks very troubling to the TSA staff. They had my wife set it on the counter, ran it through one of their machines, and then announced that could not release my wife until they had called in the explosives experts came to examine it further.

Explosives experts for a cold compress?  Yes.

So we stood there for 10 minutes and finally the men from the bomb squad arrived. Thankfully they were not dressed like the soldiers in the movie The Hurt Locker. Instead they were wearing slack and shirts that said “Explosives Expert” on the front.

They spoke with the supervisor, then put on plastic gloves and carefully started to examine the compress. They read all of the writing on it, terrifying phrases like “Helps stop pain and swelling.” They carefully pinched it. They gently poked at it. They finally picked it up and, with great care, gave it a squeeze.

And then they called for the supervisor. He showed them the two printouts from the machine that had initially examined the bandage. They read them with great care, pointing out various numbers that were right on the edge of the allowable limits. This went on for several minutes.

Then they called the supervisor again and spoke with him in whispered tones. After a minute of this, the senior explosives person said, “We have no problem releasing her with this if this was the only item that caused an alarm.” Thankfully, it was.

They wished us a nice day, and released my wife and her bandage.  I must say the TSA staff was very courteous, very professional; apparently an ACE Bandage is a threat, but not a big enough threat to cause a lock-down or have have her removed and taken to a private area.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? Yes. Don’t bring an ACE Bandage or similar items in your carry-on bag the next time you fly. :-)