Ask the nurse: A guide to intermittent catheters and optimal health


Intermittent catheters are designed to help you drain your bladder if it’s not emptying properly or after particular kinds surgery. Doing so can help prevent urine retention, keep your kidneys healthier, reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and promote continence.

As the name suggests, you’ll need to insert and remove the catheter at home (or when you’re out and about) as required. Here’s our no-nonsense guide to navigating life – and optimal health – with an intermittent catheter.

What you'll need

Before you get started, it’s a good idea to have the following within easy reach:

Wash your hands with soap and water or antibacterial hand sanitiser. Start by lubricating (if required) the tip of the catheter with the water-soluble lubricating gel then slowly slide into the urethra until urine starts to flow. If you feel some resistance, stop for a few seconds before continuing.

Drain the catheter downwards into a container or toilet. When the urine flow stops, withdraw the catheter slowly. It may start to drain again at this point so wait until it stops to ensure complete emptying. Discard the catheter into your yellow waste bin and wash your hands with soap and water again.

How to prevent UTIs

Good hygiene is the number one way you can minimise the chance of contracting urinary tract infections (UTIs).

  • Strict hand hygiene is essential. Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling your catheter.
  • Wash the entry site. The entry site should also be washed twice daily with mild soap and water and dried thoroughly. If it becomes inflamed, check for chafing or other potential physical trauma, then contact your continence specialist for advice if required.
  • Choose your product. Some products are designed so you don’t even need to touch the catheter – such as Lofric and SpeediCath Compact.
  • Take a kit. Don’t forget to take spare catheter equipment and emergency supplies (like antibacterial wipes) with you, just in case (especially if you go on a long journey).

What to look out for

How do you know when there’s a problem with your catheter? Here’s some signs you should talk to your doctor or urology nurse.

  • Dark, offensive smelling urine. May be a sign of infection. Increase your fluid intake.
  • Pain. If you’re experiencing unrelieved pain or discomfort during or after catheterising, or difficulty or bleeding from the insertion catheter, contact your healthcare professional.

Intermittent catheters can sometimes take a bit of time to get used to – but you can live a normal life by following some basic strategies. And, remember, we’re here to lend a hand whenever you need us.

If you have any specific concerns, you can speak to our Continence Nurse by leaving a message here. Or visit our catheter FAQs page for more great tips.

Note: Your healthcare professional is your first point of contact. Always follow your doctor’s instructions.