Q: How can I overcome the worry of having an accident, especially when I’m traveling?
A: In my experience, the number one factor that leads to a lower quality of life among people with incontinence is worry. Everyone at one point or another worries about having a bladder accident while traveling, working out, or even just out and about shopping. As a doctor of incontinence education, my job is to reassure you and let you know that there are solutions, and a clear protocol will give you comfort, discretion, and a dramatically improved lifestyle.
The irony is that your worry about people finding out can actually make it more likely that they do find out! When you have a clear protocol that you follow and you’re confident in, your condition is far less likely to be discovered – and when there’s less chance of discovery, there’s less to worry about.
How To Keep Your Incontinence Secret…Secret
With that in mind, there are three primary reasons why people find out that you have incontinence: Leaks, odor and bulkiness. Your incontinence protocol – the steps you take to manage your condition based on your unique needs – can help address each of these reasons.
So, how can you address these reasons and prevent a bladder leak from happening? You can start by making sure that you’ve chosen the right product to wear. Purchasing off-the-shelf products without assessing your level of incontinence is a recipe for worry. Are you occasionally incontinent, with small dribbles of urine in short sports? Are you fully incontinent, with heavier gushes of urine happening frequently throughout the day? Or are you somewhere in between? Your answer will help guide you toward products that are engineered to address your problem most effectively.
No matter how light or heavy your condition is, you can rest assured that there are many products available to meet your needs and fit inside your own underwear. They’re soft and comfortable while still being plenty absorbent.
There are also products that look like regular underwear and that can be worn discreetly under your regular clothes.
If you’re only occasionally incontinent, a good option may be an insert pad that you can put directly in your underwear. Incontinence briefs can be worn for moderate, heavy, frequent episodes and are more appropriate for those with a less active lifestyle.
Keep in mind that using briefs may be difficult during travel or long activities, and an alternative is to wear pull-ups that act like underwear and then place an extra insert pad inside for even more protection. You’ll get the best of all worlds – comfort, discretion, and protection all inconspicuously hidden by your ordinary clothing.
One more thing to think about is that the quality of the product that you chose will have a direct impact on your level of worry. If a product has a high/rapid absorbency, there’s less likelihood of a leak. The term in the industry is “strikethrough,” which refers to how quickly the liquid is absorbed. 1 The higher the strikethrough, the faster the absorbency and the more liquid it can hold. Liquid that hits the product is rapidly turned into a gel, and that traps in odor, mitigating another major source of worry.
The tradeoff with some of the more absorbent products is that they can be on the bulky side, but bulky doesn’t always mean “better.” Many products on the market today are super thin while still being super absorbent. Some even have less of a “crunch factor,” which means that there’s less noise produced when you walk or sit. Find a product that ticks all the appropriate boxes for you and you’ll be able to enjoy all the activities you’ve been used to without all the worry.
- Falloon, S. S., Abbas, S., Stridfeldt, C., & Cottenden, A. (2018). The impact of microclimate on skin health with absorbent incontinence product use: an integrative review. Journal of Wound Ostomy & Continence Nursing, 45(4), 341-348
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