Many consider urinary incontinence to be one of the inevitable nuisances of aging, and the process certainly does play a role. More than half of Americans over 65 experience some form of incontinence (either urinary or bowel), according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
A person’s risk of developing an overactive bladder increases with their age. This is especially true for post-menopausal women, since the drop in estrogen levels that accompanies menopause contributes to tissue degeneration in the urethra and bladder. The list of potential incontinence causes is lengthy—diabetes, stroke, neurological conditions, cancer, poor diet, urinary tract infections (UTIs), pregnancy and childbirth, constipation, prostate conditions and bladder stones.
Incontinence can be especially frustrating during the summer months, when most activities and events are held outdoors and the warmer weather calls for fewer articles of clothing. Answering the unexpected call of Mother Nature while spending time in nature can be a challenge, and wearing incontinence products underneath a bathing suit or a pair of shorts is a tricky endeavor. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure the condition doesn’t interfere with your summer plans.
Tips for Managing Incontinence During the Summer
Scout Restroom Locations
Whether you’re planning a day at the park or embarking on a weeklong vacation, identify places to take pit stops. Scheduling bathroom breaks every two to four hours can help avoid accidents. If you aren’t familiar with the area, there are new tools that can help you find the nearest toilet. The aptly named “SitOrSquat” is a free smartphone application that will search for suitable restrooms in your area. You can filter out facilities by cleanliness (past users say whether they were able to “sit” on a clean toilet or if they were forced to “squat” over a dirty one), handicap accessibility, and whether you have to pay to pee.
Stay Away from Smoke
Smoking directly contributes to an overactive bladder, but simply being near second-hand smoke can also add to incontinence symptoms by causing coughing and sneezing.
Stick to a Healthy Diet
Overweight individuals are more likely to experience problems with incontinence, so eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise are two essentials for keeping the condition at bay. Fiber is especially important for preventing constipation, which can exacerbate urinary incontinence. Some foods can irritate the bladder, like spicy ingredients and artificial sweeteners. Make a point of listening to your body to avoid problematic ingredients and situations.
Staying properly hydrated is actually a key component of preventing incontinence, and drinking enough water is especially important while spending time outside during warmer weather. However, some beverages are better left untouched, such as alcohol, coffee and tea, which can all irritate the bladder. Water is the ideal drink. For consistent hydration that won’t overwhelm your system, opt for frequent sips instead of downing a full cup at a time.
Find the Right Incontinence Product
There is a wide variety of products available for people who live with incontinence but still want to wear shorts or go for a swim on a warm, sunny day. Finding a product with the right fit, function and profile requires a bit of trial and error. Do not use traditional diapers and pads for swimming, since they will absorb water and are likely to leak waste. Instead, look for a waterproof swim diaper or a specialized bathing suit that can contain accidents in the water. The following list of incontinence products can help you explore some of the available options.
Always Be Prepared
Planning ahead for an accident can alleviate anxiety and allow for a more stress-free outing. Make sure you’ve packed pads, diapers, wet wipes, extra clothes, and a plastic bag for discreetly containing soiled items to help you get through any unforeseen incontinence episodes.