Whether you suffer from bladder leaks or not, we’ve all experienced it – the urgent need to find a bathroom quickly when you’re out and about. If you’ve ever googled the words “public restroom near me”, you know what we’re talking about. These days, with concerns around coronavirus and many establishments closing their doors for a while, that’s an even harder task.
In a recent NAFC survey, we heard from many people that a big challenge in managing incontinence during the coronavirus pandemic has been finding available public restrooms. It’s hard to find bathrooms that are open or ones that don’t have long lines out the door.
Because of the coronavirus, many establishments were forced to shut down. And for those that did remain open, the restrooms were still sometimes closed or off-limit to the public. With many businesses operating with a smaller staff, keeping a restroom clean (which requires multiple cleanings throughout the day to keep airborne germs at bay) became harder to do. And, in many cases, the public restroom and the employee restroom are the same.
For people who live with bladder leaks, these challenges present real problems. We heard from many in our survey that the lack of public bathrooms caused real anxiety for those with conditions like overactive bladder or incontinence when they were forced to go out. For some, going out was made almost impossible due to fears of having an accident.
“Traveling or being away from my house for longer periods is almost impossible.”
“Finding open bathrooms has been a challenge.”
“With public bathrooms being closed, there are very limited places to go, leading to increased accidents. This also impacts changing soiled briefs because there are no places to change.”
“I have been using more of my overnight pads during the day when I go out due to the lack of available toilet facilities. I also have been really controlling my fluid intake on days that I have to go out for the same reason. Lack of open toilet facilities has been a nightmare.”
While many places are starting to slowly open back up now that vaccinations are underway, finding a toilet (or one without a line) can still be a challenge. Many people also still feel uncomfortable using a public restroom amid fears of contracting the virus. While we know now that it’s unlikely to transmit the virus through surfaces, it can still feel a little worrisome to be in a confined space that someone else may have just been occupying.
So, how do you prepare for a trip out without having an anxiety attack about the potential for having to use a bathroom? Keep reading for our tips on what to do when you do find a bathroom, and how to avoid finding yourself without any options for emptying your bladder.
Precautions To Take When Using A Public Toilet During The Coronavirus Pandemic
While the below tips are all written during the time of COVID-19, they really are common sense and apply to any time you use a public toilet – now, or in the future, long after we’ve moved past the coronavirus.
Wear A Mask.
We can’t believe we still have to say this, but wearing a mask one of the best ways to protect others, and yourself, from contracting the coronavirus.
Distance Yourself From Others.
Again, this is pretty common knowledge by now, but keeping a safe distance can help keep you safe.
Use A Larger Bathroom If You Can.
If possible (and we know it isn’t always) opt for a larger bathroom with more than one stall where the air has more room to circulate.
Don’t Touch Anything You Don’t Need To.
This applies to anything in the bathroom. Try to avoid directly touching the toilet flush, the sink taps, the bathroom doors, etc. Instead, try to use a paper towel or tissue when using these items. You may even wish to bring your own toilet paper or tissues in case there are none available.
Don’t Touch Your Face.
Touching a contaminated surface, then touching your face isn’t a good combo. And looking at it from the other direction, it’s not considerate to others who may follow you if you’re touching your face, then touch other items in the bathroom that others are going to have to use after you.
Wash Your Hands With Hot Water And Soap.
Don’t even think about leaving without washing those hands!
Get In, And Get Out – Quickly!
Don’t stay longer than you need to avoid exposing yourself to harmful airborne germs. While it’s unlikely that the person who used the bathroom before you spent hours in there, it’s still wise to be quick about your business just in case.
Follow Up With Some Hand Sanitizer.
Use hand sanitizer when you get back to your car as a final precaution, especially if you touched a doorknob on your way out.
How To Avoid Accidents When Going Out (And What To Do If You Really Can’t Find A Bathroom).
Many of these tips require a little preparation, but you’ll be glad you took the time for them when the urge inevitably strikes.
Modify Your Water Intake When Going Out.
While we typically don’t recommend limiting your water intake, if you’re going out for a few hours, it’s probably a good idea to cut back on the fluids an hour or two before leaving the house.
Go When You Can.
Make sure to empty your bladder before leaving the house, and if you happen upon an open bathroom, go ahead and use it, even if you’re not sure you have to go.
Plan Your Route.
For most of us, we’re likely not driving too far out of our comfort zone for errands. Try to plan your route around places that you know are likely to have an open restroom. You may even want to call ahead to identify a few if you’re not sure.
Scout Out Grocery Stores, Where Bathrooms Are Likely To Be Open.
Most big box stores, like Walmart and Target, and most grocery store chains have allowed their bathrooms to stay open throughout the pandemic. If you need to find something quickly, these are probably safe bets. (Again calling ahead, or even from the parking lot, may help you avoid some frustration.)
Use a bathroom app.
Invest In A Portable Urinal For Emergencies.
This may seem completely ridiculous, but if you’re prone to bladder leaks, you might want to purchase a portable urinal to keep in the car. They make these for both men and women, and some even come with a glow-in-the-dark lid, for when you’re traveling at night and need a little extra guidance.
Wear More Protection Than Normal.
If you’re really prone to leaks, wear heavier protection when you know you may not be able to use a bathroom for an extended period.
Pack For Accidents.
No one ever wants accidents to happen, but sometimes, they’re inevitable. Prepare for them in advance by always packing an extra change of clothing, wipes, sealable plastic bags for storing soiled items, and any other tools you may need for cleaning up.
It’s probably pretty obvious, but as with many things related to incontinence, a little bit of preparation can save you a lot of trouble when planning an outing.
Have any tips of your own to share with us about managing incontinence during the coronavirus pandemic? Leave them in the comments below!