Dreading the Loss of Travel Freedoms


By Nancy Muller, PhD
Executive Director of the National Association For Continence

At NAFC, we recently completed our sixth nationwide survey of Americans in just the past 12 years. Each one has revealed light on the beliefs, behaviors, and health literacy of adults related to toileting habits and bladder or bowel control problems In the latest study, we learned that “Baby Boomer” women (females born between 1945 and 1965) are most fearful of losing the freedom to travel as their mild to moderate symptoms of overactive bladder (urgency, frequency, and urgency incontinence) grow worse if they can’t be managed or cured. Knowledge about options for treatment is limited. In fact, a third of the respondents are quite fatalistic in their beliefs about the direct association of losing control over one’s bladder with growing older.

Having just returned from a 10-day trip to Argentina and Brazil from the U.S., this is a well-seated fear for those people feeling anxious about their smelly leakage of urine or a sudden, unavoidable accident in unfamiliar, public places.  Start with the 9 ½ hour flight on an aircraft from Atlanta to Rio de Janeiro, wedged in a middle seat requiring aerial gymnastics just to get into the aisle for accessing the toilet. That’s followed by a 10 minute wait behind the beverage trolley; only to find a line at least four people deep at each of the two toilets serving 120 passengers seated in the back half of the aircraft. Reach the airport and find another line at the ladies restroom after standing in line to clear immigration, customs, and security. Oh yes, there’s the extra stop in baggage claim – another waiting area without access to public restrooms.  Once in the stall, the door latch is broken, the hook for hand luggage is missing, and the toilet tissue dispenser is empty. Then you discover the water pressure is weak and the toilet doesn’t leak. Head for the taxi stand, and there’s another wait in line. No public facilities are in sight. The tour bus spends nearly four hours all afternoon without a stop. And after day three, you may discover you haven’t packed enough clean underwear to replace the damp, soiled ones nor enough absorbent products, so you’re out shopping at corner pharmacies trying to decipher labels in a language you don’t know in search of the shape, size, and design that works for you at home. The nightclub with dancing that triggers more leakage and alcoholic beverages that aggravate the urgency ends a nightmarish day preoccupied with the bladder. The survey respondents’ fears have echoed exactly what you are experiencing as a traveler on what should be an exciting and romantic holiday.

If this is the story of your life – or a fear you dread the most – get up and do something about it. Book that appointment with your doctor. Make this your next trip. And then book your dream vacation. Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, wait for me!

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