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On Vacation With Incontinence

Urge and stress incontinence follow you wherever you go.
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WebMD Feature

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."

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On vacation, there's much uncertainty, so absorbent incontinence pads are a must, says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology 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."

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