Updated 14 December 2018

5 tips on travelling with urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence shouldn't put a damper on any travel plans. Here are tips to manage the condition if you are going away these holidays.

The thought of standing in a long queue to board a flight or being on the road to a distant location without the comfort of a restroom close by can be truly daunting. A change in routine can also affect your bladder. But urinary incontinence doesn’t have to hamper your holiday plans.

Urinary incontinence can severely affect your quality of life if left untreated and unacknowledged. Research has shown that many people with urinary incontinence tend to shy away from activities they previously enjoyed and become socially isolated because of their problem.

1. Plan the route ahead

Whether you are travelling by car or airplane, plan your route or pre-book your seat to ensure easy access a restroom. Trying to restrict urinary flow can trigger your bladder and sometimes lead to a urinary tract infection – it’s therefore crucial to make planned restroom stops an important part of your trip if you are travelling by car. If you are travelling by plane, try to organise priority boarding if you are nervous about having to stand in a queue and not being able to go to the toilet for a while.

Planning a trip

 2. See your doctor

If you are planning a trip for next year, now is the time to take action and seek out medical advice. It can take a couple of months to find a treatment regime that works for you, or for pelvic exercises to show improvement. You could also start taking medication to help curb an overactive bladder or urge incontinence.

Carer with older patient

3. Dress (and pack) accordingly

Wear absorbent, dark-coloured clothing that won’t show leakage and won’t cause a smell, should something happen. The same applies to the entire trip – also stick to clothes that are easy to wash and wear.

Airport luggage can go AWOL, but that doesn’t mean you have to be caught unawares. Pack a complete carry-on with a spare set of clothing and urinary incontinence supplies such as absorbent pads.

packing for a trip

4.  Plan your liquid intake

You don’t want to guzzle down litres of water before hitting the road or boarding your flight, but you also don’t want to become completely dehydrated as this can irritate your bladder and actually cause leakage, not to mention other symptoms of dehydration. Stick to water as this will hydrate you better than any other beverage and won't irritate your bladder. 

drinking enough water

5. Know and avoid the triggers

Some foods and alcoholic beverages may cause leakage by irritating your bladder. These include spicy, heavily processed or sugary foods, and citrus juice. Snack wisely throughout your trip. Also start cutting down on your caffeine consumption well ahead of time.

alcohol and coffee

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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