Travel today can make anyone anxious and nervous. But traveling and worrying about urinary incontinence can make even the most seasoned traveler think twice about making plans for a trip. This article will provide ideas that can help allay those apprehensions about traveling if you have urinary incontinence.
First, if fears about having an incontinence episode are causing you to consider skipping your trip entirely, check in with your doctor. There are medications that can be taken once a day that will help with bladder frequency, urgency of urination and urinary incontinence. You may need to start taking medications a few days or a week in advance of traveling for them to work most effectively, so don’t delay.
Here are other things to discuss with your doctor:
A Kegel a day may keep you dry and comfortable. Kegel exercises are used to strengthen the muscles in the pelvis. However, it may take weeks or months to train these muscles to help control your urination. You can do the exercises at any time even while reading this article or while waiting for the lavatory sign to read “vacant.”
Some medications have side effects that can contribute to urinary incontinence. Check to make sure other drugs you take aren’t undermining bladder control. For example, people who take diuretics to manage blood pressure or swelling might need to switch medications to fight incontinence .
Creating Your Flight Plan
Here’s how to plan for flying or driving “dry”:
Book tickets carefully. If you’re flying, try to get an aisle seat and, if possible, one close to the toilet. Many booking sites let you choose the seat you want on a map of the plane.
Plan your route. If you’re driving, take a careful look at your map and consider stopping for bathroom breaks every 90 minutes or so (based on your typical time between urges or leaks).
Buy supplies. Even with good planning, you could experience a leak. Adult absorbent pads can help you feel more confident. For long trips, talk with your doctor about urethral plugs or portable catheters. Some patients may have a catheter or tube inserted into the bladder before a trip which will drain urine from the bladder to a leg bag which can be easily concealed under your clothing. The catheter can then be removed when you reach your destination. And if you’re flying, check ahead with your airline to find out what you can take in a carry-on. Generally, all prescription assistive products can go on the plane with you.
Learn foreign customs. If you’re traveling internationally, learn how to ask for a bathroom in the local language. Also check in advance to find out whether you will need change for public restrooms and tips for attendants.
Bladder Control While on Your Trip
Choose beverages carefully. Caffeine, soda, beer, and wine are all diuretics and increase the production of urine and can aggravate an already overactive bladder. You should skip these while flying or driving. Sip on water if you’re thirsty.
Ask for privacy. Should you find yourself in the awkward situation of needing a pat-down or other security screening, and you’re feeling embarrassed about your incontinence or related supplies, know that you can ask security officers for privacy. You may want to ask your doctor in advance for a note to confirm your situation.
Avoid constipation as constipation actually makes bladder control more difficult, so make sure you eat a varied diet and have regular bowel movements.
Void early and often. Instead of waiting for a leak, be proactive and seize your opportunities. Make sure you go to the bathroom before you get on the plane, during a layover, and when you have opportunities between meal and beverage cart service times. When driving, stick to your planned stops, even if you don’t feel the urge to go.
Pack a change of clothes. You want to travel light, but you should have easy access to a spare set (or two) of underwear and easy-to-wash travel pants.
Pack toilet supplies. Because you never know how well bathrooms will be maintained, you may want to carry your own flushable wipes, spare toilet tissue, sanitizing hand gel, plastic bags for disposing of trash or for storing soiled clothes, and any other supplies you think you might need.
Plan for special events. You may occasionally have to attend a gala dinner or other social engagement that could require sitting for hours while people speak or make presentations. Try to find out whether these will be on your itinerary and whether you can be seated close to a door.
Bottom Line: With proactive incontinence management, your trip should be as pleasurable and comfortable as you want and you won’t have to depend on Depends!
Article modified from Taking Incontinence on the Road, By Madeline Vann, MPHMedically reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD