Holidays... ah! Carefree, relaxing and fun! But wait! You don’t want to let a sly urinary tract infection join you for your precious vacation! Although there’s no failsafe method for avoiding them, there are some small steps you can take to help stop extra bladder visitors joining you on your holiday.
My recent trip to Australia seemed to be filled with warnings from locals about bugs, sharks and crocs, apparently put on this earth to cause maximum fear. We avoided swimming in Darwin’s waterholes, in case of crocodiles, we diligently sprayed every inch of our skins with mosquito repellent to try to avoid getting bitten and we walked noisily through the bush to scare off snakes. But what can we do to avoid contracting a UTI whilst on holiday? How do you stay cool in a dirty loo and how can you stop your catheters getting too warm?
The danger in the deep (and the shallow too!)
We are all hopefully aware of the triggers for UTIs, but did you know there are some holiday-related causes that can cause an unwelcome infection?
The pool looks so inviting, doesn’t it? When you’ve been working up a sweat on the sun lounger, in the shops or on sight-seeing trips, you just want to plunge in and cool down! But wait…. Did you know that swimming pools and jacuzzis could cause a holiday UTI?
Although medical opinion is split on this topic, more often than not, I’ve been advised by GPs and Consultants to always avoid jacuzzis. Yes, they are chlorinated, but their warmer temperature and the personal hygiene of other users can make a jacuzzi a haven for E-coli, the bacteria associated with more than 75% of UTIs. Likewise, medical professionals have told me that swimming pools can be a hot spot for bacteria too, especially those that aren’t regularly maintained and chlorine levels monitored.
How dull though! You deserve that dip in the pool! There are some simple steps you can take to reduce the opportunity for an infection to start. Before you take the plunge, have a look at the pool and the surrounding area. Does it look well maintained? Is the water clear – cloudy water might indicate that chlorine levels aren’t correct and bugs could be breeding.
Enjoy your swim, but take action once you’re out of the pool to try and avoid bacterial growth. The warm and damp material of swimwear provides a wonderful breeding ground for bacteria, so after you’ve got out of the pool, shower and change into clean, dry swimwear.
After I’ve showered, I personally tend to self-catheterise, to try and flush through any bacteria that might be trying to go on a trip to my bladder. My final tip is to stay hydrated – keep drinking water to carry on flushing through your body.
Being cool about the loo
You can’t beat self-catheterising in your own home. You’ve got your own stuff around you and unless the kids are banging on the door, there’s no queue building up to use the loo. I’m a pretty skilful holiday packer, but even I can’t manage to pack my own toilet to take away on holiday!
Holiday toilets seem to fall into 2 categories – the ultra-clean, well lit, well designed loos or the dark, dirty, dingy, damp ones that only sheer desperation can motivate you to use. So, how can you be prepared for every holiday toilet eventuality?
When I’m out and about I’ll always take at least double the amount of catheters I think I’ll need for the day, a small bar of soap (probably “acquired” from my hotel’s bathroom!), my pop up mirror, wipes and hand sanitiser. I keep all of this kit in a handy bag that has its own hanger. If I’m unfortunate enough to end up in the toilet from hell (usually on a train!), I know I can keep myself hygienically safe by having clean hands, I can hook my bag over the door or on its lock, so that my kit doesn’t have to go on the floor and if the darkness or wobbling of the train carriage prevents me from correctly inserting the catheter, I have plenty of tubes with me to have another go.
My bag was a Godsend when I was hiking in New Zealand – the long drop toilets whose cabin had to be wired into the ground because of high winds had every challenge going – doors that were open at the top and bottom, no running water, tiny cubicle space, howling winds that made the loo shake and less than fragrant previous users…..
As for the potential of a queue building up outside your toilet, I’m afraid there’s no magic spell to make it go away! Sometimes I just don’t care about making people wait to use my cubicle. But on other days, I’m mortified and can’t wait for that last drop off wee to come out! If you’re on a plane, going to the loo during a meal service is a quiet time. If you’re on a bus tour day trip, go to the loo as soon as you get to your next stop. Your fellow sight-seers tend to take pictures first and go to the loo second, so you can time your toilet trip wisely and remove the worry of a queue building up. If there’s a disabled toilet, go ahead and use it. There’s usually more space and they are less likely to have other users. Ultimately though, the “pressure” of a possible queue building up is in our heads. I don’t think fellow toilet users stand there with a stop watch and, frankly, you’re never going to see these waiting people again, so relax!
You’ve kept yourself cool by having a plunge in the pool. You’ve kept your cool when faced by a dodgy public toilet as you’ve got a bag of hygienic tricks with you but have you thought about how to keep your catheters cool?
Our fly drive around Australia was tricky – we’d pack up our cases in the car and drive to our next destination, stopping on the way for hikes or sight-seeing. We got hot hiking around Kakadu National park, but the car (and my medical bag!) got even hotter. I use Lofric Sense urinary catheters and the box tells me to “store in a dry place at room temperature” – very awkward when you’ve got 26 boxes of catheters in a black suitcase, locked in a car, parked in the 38 degree Celsius heat of summer! We quickly became skilful at putting my medical case in the shady part of the car boot and were experts at finding the shady areas of car parks. On some days, we arranged our day so that we’d get to our next accommodation asap, drop off the bags and head straight back out, leaving the cases in a cool room. I also bought a couple of insulated picnic bags and ice blocks for the days where we couldn’t avoid leaving the catheters in the hot car. They stayed beautifully cool and took away my worries that the salt solution would be boiling away by the time we arrived back to the car! They also doubled as fabulous picnic lunch bags too!
I hope these holiday blogs have given you some useful tips about taking your bladder away on holiday. With some pre-holiday planning, you’ll hopefully build your confidence that self-catheterising away from your home environment isn’t something to be scared of. Do you have any tips and ideas? It would be great to hear from you with your suggestions to make everyone’s holidays even more fun and relaxing.
The world and everything it has to offer is fantastic! Don’t let your bladder hold you back! Happy holidays.
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