Living with your catheter: an essential guide

Whether you have an indwelling, intermittent or suprapubic catheter for a few days, weeks, or long-term, we’ve pulled together a simple guide to make your life a little easier.

Catheters take some getting used to at first, but life can go on as normal by following a few basic management strategies including securing and draining the catheter. First, you should follow all the instructions your doctor has given you – your healthcare professional is your first point of contact if you have any specific questions or concerns.

Hygiene and infection prevention:
There are a number of strategies you can make routine to minimise the chance of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

  • Strict hand hygiene is essential when handling a catheter. Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling your catheter. Click here to view some skin care and hygiene products.
  • Wash around your catheter as required, removing mucous and discharge with mild soap and water. Remember to dry thoroughly. If the area around the entry site becomes inflamed check for chafing or other potential physical trauma, then contact your continence specialist for advice if required.
  • Change your underclothes every day and avoid using creams and talcum powder – they may lead to ‘clogging’ and potential infection.
  • Before having a bath or shower remember to empty your leg bag and to remove the leg bag straps. Dry the leg bag after washing and reapply the straps.
  • No kinks. Make sure urine is flowing down the tubing in a downward motion ensuring there are no kinks in the tubing. It helps to wear loose clothing.
  • Avoid backflow. Keep the urine collection bag and leg bag tubing below the level of your bladder.
  • No drag. Make sure there is no pulling or dragging on the catheter by the leg bag or tubing – and don’t tug or pull on it yourself! Also ensure it’s secured to your leg or abdomen with a catheter strap or stabilisation device.
  • Avoid constipation. Stay hydrated and eat high-fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrain foods and at least 1.5 litres a day unless otherwise directed.
  • Single use catheters. Intermittent catheters are mostly single use and should be changed each time you go to the toilet. Please check catheter packaging for instructions. In addition, some are designed so you don’t even need to touch the catheter – such as Lofric Origo and SpeediCath Compact.

Travel and exercise:
Having a catheter in place shouldn’t limit your ability to exercise and travel.

  • Shop around. There are lots of special products made for travelling with a catheter, for example a leg bag that fits under shorts, catheter valves or even a discreet means of emptying the bag when an accessible toilet is not available.
  • No champagne on the plane. It’s important not to drink lots of alcohol when you fly as altitude dehydrates the body. This can cause catheter blockages.
  • Extra luggage. Connecting a night bag to your day bag then discreetly placing it under your seat in a plastic carrier bag is a great solution for worry-free long trips.
  • Take spares. Don’t forget to take spare catheter equipment with you, just in case the catheter needs changing while you’re away (especially if you go on holiday or a long journey).
  • Modify your workout. It’s important to keep fit to maintain better continence, however, if you’re used to high impact sports you may need to modify your exercise routine a little. If you’re a jogger, switch to walking. If aerobics is your thing, be sure to void just before the class. You can also use pads to give you extra protection.

How do you know if there’s a problem with your catheter? If you have any specific concerns, speak to your doctor or urology nurse as soon as possible. However, here’s our list of symptoms to keep an eye on.

  • Check it out. Regularly look for inflammation or signs of infection in the area around your catheter, such as pus or irritated, swollen, red, or tender skin. Check for any kinking or pulling of your catheter.
  • Feeling discomfort? You may need a different size or type catheter.
  • Feeling Pain? You’re unlikely to feel persistent pain (you might feel a slight twinge immediately after catheterisation). If you’re experiencing pain that won’t go away, contact your healthcare professional.
  • Dark, offensive urine. Some medications can affect the colour of your urine, however, dark, offensive urine may be a sign of infection. Try to increase your fluid intake. If you start to have bladder pain and the colour and odour of your urine does not improve, consult your nurse. Don’t be alarmed but do mention any concerns you may have.
  • Blockages. If your catheter drains no urine for 2-3 hours (particularly if you are having a normal intake of fluid) and you experience abdominal discomfort check there are no kinks in the catheter, bag or tubing and that the bag is below the level of your bladder. If all is correct and the problem persists, call your doctor.

A catheter may take time to adjust to, so don’t worry, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

If you have any specific concerns or need product advice, you can either speak to Phil, our friendly Urology and Incontinence Nurse by clicking here or call a Customer Service Representative on 1300 788 855. You can also visit our catheter FAQs page for some more great tips.