Having a catheter shouldn’t affect your everyday activities, including going on holiday.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence reckons that if a person uses a urinary catheter for more than four weeks, then the person is considered a long-term user. While many people assume that because they use a long-term catheter their freedom is now limited, nothing could be further from the truth. On the internet, there are plenty of uplifting stories shared by patients living with an indwelling or a suprapubic catheter, including how they can enjoy travelling long distance with proper preparation and knowledge.

In our post titled “top ten tips for living with a catheter”, we highlight useful tips that may help with a patient’s daily routine. In this post, we aim to discuss how patients can enjoy a staycation in the UK or even a holiday abroad.

Adapting to a catheter first

Before we start, let us take a step back and emphasise that it is important to allow yourself to adjust and get comfortable with using your catheter first. While an indwelling catheter usually has a lifespan for 10 weeks, it is still worth learning the processes, from knowing when to drain your bladder, adapting to how to wear the bag that collects the urine, being aware of when to empty the bag, or even learning how to fit a catheter (if applicable).

If you know each process by heart and they have become part of your daily, weekly or monthly routines, then it may seem natural for you to try a new experience such as taking a short trip near to home first. Speak to your medical provider too, tell them about your holiday plan and allow them to voice any concerns. If nothing prevents you from leading an active lifestyle, then you are likely planning for a holiday and here are a few tips that may help.

Cleanliness is key

When living with a catheter, one of the most important things to keep in mind is cleanliness and hygiene. In order to keep your bladder healthy and free of infection, catheters need to be replaced and installed in a clean environment with clean hands. While our own bathrooms can provide that environment, it can be harder to control these elements when on holiday. New settings will have differing levels of cleanliness, so make use of antibacterial wipes, soaps and hand sanitizers. Keep your hands as clean as possible because your hands will be a primary carrier of bacteria when installing or adjusting a catheter. This also goes for any surfaces that you use or come into contact with when going through this process.

Packing catheter supplies

If you plan to travel abroad, it is recommended that you bring along some extra catheters, wipes, a hand sanitizer, extra drainage bags and lubricant in your carry-on bag – just in case you need them. This is also to protect against the airline losing your luggage and leaving you without essential supplies. You may also need to use the catheter before you get to your luggage and, therefore, it’s good to have supplies on hand in case this happens.

Dealing with airport security

While there is usually no problem when it comes to travelling with a catheter, two small preparations often help to smoothen the process. The first is to inform your airline about your situation; the second is to have a letter from your medical provider with you if you are stopped for a security check or if questions are asked about medication and liquids. Many people travelling with a catheter bag do not want to reveal that they do so – and you are allowed to request a private screening away from the eyes of others. You also do not need to remove your catheter, the drainage bag or open the medical supplies stored in your carry-on luggage.

While it is vital to follow the rules when it comes to liquids in hand luggage, there are exceptions for liquid containers that are essential for medical purposes as explained on this gov.uk page, so follow the link to find more information on this topic.

Dealing with long-haul flights

As the hygiene levels of aeroplane bathrooms vary and inevitability become more unhygienic as the flight continues, your medical provider is likely to recommend you emptying your bag before going on any flight – not just a long-haul flight. This is because planes can encounter internal and external problems that require them to stay in the air (or on the ground) for longer than expected, or can stop passengers from leaving the plane right away.

For patients living with a catheter and a bag who are planning on journeying across the world, it is worth to take extra precautions. The first thing to consider is to use a larger bag that could hold more urine when you are travelling. Also, when sitting still for a long period of time, you may want to ensure that there are no snags in the catheter line as this can bring about infection too. Your medical provider may also recommend you to stay hydrated during a flight – while this can increase the need to urinate, it can also lessen the chance of infections.

Dealing with cabin pressure

One of the commonly asked questions by catheter users is if cabin pressure could affect fluids and liquids; the answer is fluids don’t respond to changes in pressure. In other words, liquid does not compress during a flight, only air does, so it is empty containers that may pose an issue, not containers with liquid. Having said that, you may notice some changes in containers – including your drainage bag. To prevent any uncomfortableness that may result from a change in pressure, it might be worth filling your bag with some water that you can expel once the flight has reached its optimal altitude.

Going from intermittent catheters to indwelling catheters

While in the previous paragraphs we largely focused on how patients with an indwelling catheter can prepare for a holiday, it is worth pointing out that users of an intermittent catheter may find it challenging to travel. In this case, talk to your medical provider and ask if an indwelling catheter – one that is often kept in for weeks at a time – can help to make your travel more comfortable.

During the conversation, your medical provider is likely to highlight the fact that an indwelling catheter can increase your risk of developing a Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection, often abbreviated to CAUTI. CAUTI is one of the most common infections where bacteria quickly multiply and infect the bladder – costing the NHS millions of pounds each year, not to mention the pain and suffering you have to go through. But the good news is, there are non-invasive ways to reduce CAUTIs and UroShield is one of them.

UroShield defends against CAUTIs

One of the primary causes of CAUTIs is a bacterial build-up on the surface of the catheter. This colony of bacteria – known as biofilm – is extremely resilient and attempting to treat the infection with medication can produce mixed results. This can be due to the biofilm becoming resilient to antibiotics. However, one way to effectively eliminate the formation of these bacterial colonies is through the use of UroShield.

This external medical device is clipped onto the end of a catheter and emits low-frequency, low-intensity vibrations that disrupt attempts by bacteria to build a colony on the surface of the catheter and its related apparatus. Gentle and pain-free, UroShield also prevents blockages, encrustations and infections from occurring. The device is small, unobtrusive and is clipped onto the catheter to enable the preventative vibrations.

If you love to travel, then you will be pleased to know that UroShield can help to lower risks of CAUTI, allowing you to enjoy your holidays and not letting the concern over your catheter hold you back.

To find out more about UroShield, call us on 020 8773 7844, or use our Online Form.

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This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.