Monday, June 9, 2008

Incontinence Can't Stop You from Vacationing!!

Urge and stress incontinence follow you wherever you go.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis, WebMD Feature. Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

A shopping spree in Milan, a hike in Ecuador, an island-hopping cruise. On vacation, you can escape most everyday hassles -- except incontinence. At every turn, it's unfamiliar territory. If you have an accident, what can you do?

"Everyone who has incontinence has developed some coping strategies," says Roger Dmochowski, MD, a urologist and director of the Vanderbilt Continence Center in Nashville. "They do what they need to do. It's amazing how good some people are at estimating their bladder's problem."

"On vacation, there's much uncertainty, so absorbent incontinence pads are a must," says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Urogynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital." If you're in an exotic location, it's difficult to know where a restroom is. If you're going dancing and you know you leak a lot while dancing, you might wear them. Having good protection is best."

A bumpy plane ride is an accident waiting to happen. Who knows what else lies ahead on your trip? If you've tried to envision the possibilities -- and packed incontinence products -- you'll be fine.

Your Strategy for Handling Incontinence

  • Book trips with care. "Always take an aisle seat," Dmochowski says. "Never take a middle seat in the middle of an airplane." Locate restrooms as soon as you're on board.

  • Plan your wardrobe. Dark clothes won't show a stain. Bring multiple changes of clothes in case something happens. Be prepared to hand-wash clothing.

  • Pack a separate suitcase with pads. If you need absorbent pads, it's best to take all your supplies with you. "You don't want to look for pads in the middle of the night in a strange city," says Dmochowski. Don't forget lots of undergarments.

  • Remember disposable bags. You can stuff used incontinence pads in the bags, then dispose of them later.

  • Carry a daypack. Everyone carries small backpacks -- and yours can hide extra pads, disposable underwear, towelettes, and plastic bags (to carry wet items).

  • Pack tampons. A tampon can help prevent leaks from stress incontinence -- those triggered by laughing, coughing, exercise -- by putting pressure on the urethra. Even if you're not having a period, a tampon can help with incontinence.

  • Consider a pessary. This is a removable device that helps support pelvic organs to prevent stress urinary incontinence that commonly occurs after childbirth. Your doctor can fit you for a pessary.

  • Take incontinence medications. If you have a prescription for overactive bladder medications -- but don't take them regularly -- start before you leave home, Wakamatsu tells WebMD. "They start to take effect in the first 24 hours, and reach a good level in your bloodstream after three days."
    Dmochowski advises starting medications five to seven days before leaving, to ensure the best protection. "That's the best use of the medication," he tells WebMD. "If you take it the week before vacation, you'll be fine."

  • Modify your fluid intake. Cutting back in fluids, especially caffeine and alcohol, really helps if you have urge incontinence, advises Wakamatsu. "A lot of people don't realize that caffeine is a diuretic," she tells WebMD.

  • Dine carefully. Spicy foods can trigger accidents if you have urge incontinence. So can acidic foods, including citrus fruits and juices and tomatoes. Enjoy the local cuisine, but choose carefully.

  • Practice Kegel exercises in the car or on the plane. These exercises can help manage leakage. You learn to feel the pelvic muscle that controls the bladder -- then tighten that muscle at the instant a leak might occur. "You have to do them regularly to keep pelvic muscles tight," says Wakamatsu. To do Kegels, contract the muscles that you would use to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for three seconds and then relax. Do this eight to 10 times, at least three times a week.
This information is from © 2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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