This post has been written by Davina Richardson, Children’s Specialist Nurse at Bladder & Bowel UK for World Continence Week on travelling and continence issues.
General suggestions for travelling with a continence problem:
- Contact the airline or travel company to discuss your individual needs before booking/travelling.
- Think about what you need to carry with you, such as medicines and products. You may need to have a letter from your doctor to be allowed to carry them through security.
- Contact the transport operator before you travel, if you are worried about luggage or body searches and possible exposure of your continence products.
- Ask the operator if you can board early, to ensure you have time to get settled with everything you may need during the flight easily accessible
Disposable continence pads while travelling
- Disposable pads can take up a lot of space. Consider trying more absorbent pads so that you need to take fewer of them, or smaller pads that take up less space.
- Make sure you obtain the products you are going to need for your trip well ahead of your travel date.
- A vacuum pack bag can help to reduce the amount of space pads take in your luggage.
- Consider using other products e.g. Men could consider using a sheath instead. Booster pads inside your usual product may increase absorbency for long journeys and could be removed part way through the journey.
- Would you be able to manage washable products while away? These take up less space.
- Ask your product provider whether they are able to deliver direct to your holiday destination, or send a supply ahead yourself, but take some in your luggage, in case there is a problem and they do not arrive.
- Ensure you have some spare products in your hand luggage while travelling in case your main luggage is lost or delayed and divide your pads between your luggage and that of a travelling companion if you are happy to do so
- Contact the airline to see if there are luggage restrictions or if continence products would be exempt as are some other categories of equipment, such as wheelchairs. Remember you will have less to bring home with you as most of the pads will have been used.
- If you are worried about leakage, consider having a chair protector for the flight
- Consider the climate of where you are travelling. Dampness can affect the absorbency of pads; heat can affect the adhesive tapes, for example on sheaths.
- Catheters are not the right option for everyone, but might be easier to manage on a flight. Consider discussing with your healthcare professional whether this would be an appropriate or safe option for you
- An indwelling catheter might be an option during travel for someone who usually uses intermittent catheterization
Managing catheters on flights
- Consider having a urinal, such as a uribag to empty catheter bags into. A travelling companion can then take it to the toilet to empty this for you.
- Ensure that you carry spare catheters, bags and any other equipment you may need with you.
- Ensure you have some spares, in case of delays etc
- Divide your catheters and supplies between your hand and hold luggage and consider giving some to a travelling companion, in case of luggage delay or loss
- Have hand sanitizer and wet wipes in case access to a sink and soap is limited
- Obtain a medical validation or travel certificate from your catheter provider. It will explain in different languages why you are carrying catheters and also has a section urging officials to be discrete
- Consider using ready-to-use hydrophilic catheters if you are travelling in countries with poor water quality
Accessing the toilet
- Try to book a seat near the toilet and on an aisle.
- Consider using a pad inside close fitting underwear, in case you cannot get to the toilet quickly enough.
- Think about taking wet wipes with you and having a small bag with one change in it and easily accessible throughout the flight.
- Consider using a urinal or urine director if you struggle to move easily
- Be aware that you may become a bit numb if you are sitting on the plane for a long time and plan a toilet visit for a set time, even if you are not sure you will need it then.
- Be aware that some people find that they are more likely to leak larger amounts of urine when the plane starts to descend. Consider planning a toilet visit just before that time.
- If you are not sure what the toilet facilities are like at your arrival airport consider a toilet visit before decent begins and access to toilets on board is restricted.
- Wear clothing that is comfortable and easy to rearrange when accessing the toilet while travelling with a continence issue. Elastic waists, drop front pants (ones that have poppers or Velcro on the side seams can be easier to manage.
- Dark coloured clothing makes leaks less visible.
- Loose fitting clothing is easier to remove. Consider having a spare set of clothing and a plastic bag in your hand luggage in case of leaks.
- Ensure that you drink enough. Plenty of water will prevent dehydration, help to protect against urinary tract infections and ensure that urine remains dilute. Concentrated urine can irritate the lining of the bladder and increase wetting.
- Avoid tea, coffee, hot chocolate and alcohol. All of these increase urine production.
- Avoid fizzy drinks as these can irritate the ladder lining.
- Try to stick to your usual diet routines when travelling to avoid feeling bloated, nauseous or uncomfortable. Digestion and body clocks can be upset by crossing time zones.
- Try to move as much as you can, particularly on long flights. This will help with both circulation and digestion.
- Discuss with your health care professional whether an enema or suppository a few hours before the flight would be an appropriate way for you to try and avoid a bowel motion during the flight.
If you have further questions or any concerns, then contact your health care professional. Bladder & Bowel UK can also offer confidential support, information and advice. Contact us by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by visit our helpline.