Bladder Control Loss and Travel

Mountain Road

By NAFC
Originally appeared in the August, 2012 issue of Quality Care® Monthly




Summer is a time to travel. Between family vacations, trips to the beach or mountains and weddings people spend a good portion of their summer traveling. For the over 25 million Americans with bladder control loss, leaving their comfort zone can be a daunting thought. It doesn’t have to be this way. With preparation and the right know-how the anxious and uncomfortable feelings can be eliminated.

Imagine forgoing a golfing trip with your buddies or missing your favorite niece’s graduation because you will be in a situation where there may not be restrooms in sight. This is what many people with urinary incontinence and overactive bladder do. There are steps to take before your trip so that you are prepared for these situations:

  1. First you should know how the medications you are taking affect your bladder function and body by asking your doctor about mediations to help control urinary incontinence. Be aware that you will need to begin to take these medications weeks before your trip. “People think of these medications as event management—take a pill when going out,” says Nancy Muller, PhD, executive director of the National Association For Continence (NAFC). “But these medications need to be in the system for a couple of weeks for them to take effect. It is also helpful to get acclimated to the effects of a new medication, such as dry mouth or constipation, so that you can find ways to manage these side effects before going out of town.”
  2. Map out public restrooms in the city you are traveling to. There are online tools, mobile phone applications and books devoted to this. NAFC is currently offering a chance to win an issue of “Where To Stop Where To Go,” a traveling book that lists public bathroom locations in cities and tourist locations. You can enter for your chance to win on NAFC’s Facebook page by posting a picture of where you are traveling (or wish to travel) this summer. You can also enter by sending a travel tip tweet to @BladderHealth on Twitter using the hashtag #GetGoing.
  3. Pack management tools. Absorbent products can be helpful in situations when loss of urine and bowel control is unpredictable. Pads, briefs, and absorbent underwear should be chosen for absorbency, comfort and fit. Visit the absorbent product section of NAFC’s website for more information.
  4. Think about the travel it takes to arrive at your destination. While traveling you want to make it easy as possible to get to a restroom. “If you’re traveling by airplane, get an aisle seat,” says Muller. “And be sure to go to the bathroom before the drink cart heads down the aisle.” You can also use online tools, such as Google Maps, to find rest stops along your driving routes, if you are traveling by car. Not every car on a passenger train has a restroom; perhaps you need to consider upgrading to business class or ask the reservation clerk for a seat closest to the toilet. And public toilets are often lacking supplies. Always have hand sanitizer, wipes and pocket tissue handy.

While on vacation pay attention to what you are eating and drinking. Diet can have a profound effect on your voiding patterns. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol and artificial sweeteners. These are known bladder irritants. Make sure you drink plenty of water. Many people who have bladder control problems reduce the amount of liquids they drink in the hope that they will need to urinate less often. Some fail to hydrate as they would like simply because they are in unfamiliar areas without beverages frequently accessible. While less liquid through the mouth does result in less liquid in the form of urine, the smaller amount of urine may be more highly concentrated and, thus, irritating to the bladder surface. Highly concentrated (dark yellow, strong-smelling) urine may cause you to go to the bathroom more frequently, and it encourages growth of bacteria.

Do not let your bladder control your life. If you are experiencing bladder control loss and you haven’t spoken to your doctor or health care provider about it you need to do so now. Help is available for everyone. More and more new treatments are successfully used for all types of incontinence. Improvement begins with you and continues through active participation in your treatment program.

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