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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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OAB: When You Have an Accident

How to take control of your overactive bladder and reduce the chance of accidents.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

An overactive bladder (OAB) doesn't have to keep you close to home. Whether your OAB symptoms are caused by age, medical issues, pregnancy, or disability, there are steps you can take to prevent accidents or to manage them discreetly when they do happen.

1. Use the Right Absorbent Products.

Coping with accidents is much easier if you use the right tools for the job.

Choices include panty liners, sanitary pads, absorbent adult briefs, and reusable garments with protective outer layers. Pads and panty liners might help if you have small, occasional leaks -- but they may not always be enough.

Because the urine-holding capacity of each product can vary, you may have to try several products and brands before you find the right one for you.

2. Take Care of Your Skin.

If you've got OAB, you may also have a higher risk of rashes and skin breakdowns.

There are several reasons for that. To keep harmful bacteria at bay, skin is slightly acidic, but when urine touches flesh, skin becomes moist and more alkaline.

The result is an inviting environment for bacteria and yeast , which can lead to rashes and infection.

Prevention can be simple:

  • Check your skin daily, looking for rashes or other signs of irritation. Be sure to separate and check any skin folds, too.
  • Wash carefully after every accident, using mild soaps or perineal washes; additionally, avoid hot water, which can make irritated skin even worse.
  • To avoid skin tears and even more irritation, let skin air-dry; don't rub.
  • Apply a cream, ointment, or film-forming skin protectant regularly to help keep urine away from tender skin.

3. Minimize Odors.

When you have an accident because of OAB, odor may be one of your first concerns. Though you can't prevent it completely, you can curb odor. Here's how:

  • Stay hydrated -- without going overboard. The more concentrated your urine is, the stronger it smells.
  • Consider taking urine deodorizing tablets, such as vitamin C, or supplements made for this purpose. You can also help reduce urine odor by drinking apple, pear, cherry, and other noncitrus juices.
  • To remove odor from clothes or your mattress, try using one part white vinegar to two parts water, baking soda, or commercial cleaners made to remove urine. Bleach kills bacteria, but it isn't as effective as vinegar at dissolving urine crystals.

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