Ask The Expert: How Do I Keep Myself Odor Free When I Have Incontinence?

How Do I Keep Myself Odor Free When I Have Incontinence?

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question:  I live with incontinence and am often concerned about others noticing a certain “smell” about me. How do I ensure that my incontinence problem lead to an odor problem?

Answer: Many people with incontinence often worry about this issue. But, it’s an easy one to solve as long as you’re diligent in following a few simple steps.

1. Change often.

If you wear absorbent pads, make sure you change them often to avoid smell. Fit and type of product is also important – a close fitting product will hold odors better than something that fits too loosely, and some products have odor-reducing materials built in, which can help prevent smells. In addition, stool or urine get onto your bedding or clothing, wash them right away, or place them in an airtight container until you are able to wash them to prevent odors from making their way throughout your house. If you’re on the go, pack a disposable plastic ziplock bag to store any soiled clothing due to leaks.

2. Drink plenty of fluids.

While many people with incontinence may try to limit their fluids, you should never do so to the limit that you become dehydrated. Drinking too little fluid throughout the day makes your urine more concentrated, and more likely to smell. The general guidance is 6-8 glasses a day. You’ll know if you’re drinking enough water by the color of your urine – clear urine with almost no color (and hardly any smell) is a good sign your staying hydrated – if your urine is a concentrated yellow, it could be a sign you need to drink a bit more.

3. Be diligent about hygiene.

It’s essential that you wash daily and clean yourself well after any accidents and after each pad or application change with a gentle cleanser.  If your skin becomes irritated, you can use a moisturizer or a protective ointment. The best line of defense against odor is ensuring that skin is kept clean and absorbent products are frequently changed or washed.

Read about more tips to stay clean and odor free! 

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Combating Incontinence-Related Odors During Holiday Get Togethers

Combating Incontinence Related Odors During The Holidays

The holidays are here and that means that for most of us, we’ll be attending at least one or two social gatherings in the next few weeks.  Whether it’s a company holiday party or a festive lunch over at your in-laws, there will be much time for merry-making.  That is, unless you are dealing with odor-issues from incontinence.  Luckily there are many easy ways you can manage this embarrassing side-effect that will have you enjoying the festivities until the last bite of fruitcake has been eaten.

1.  Reduce The Smell

It makes sense that if your urine doesn’t smell, you’ll drastically reduce the chance of an odor if/when you have a leak.  Simple things like changing your diet (asparagus=out; cranberry juice=in), drinking more water to dilute your urine, and getting checked for an infection (which can sometimes cause urine to have a strong odor) all help alleviate smell.

2. Maintain Good Hygiene

Keeping yourself clean is half the battle.  If you have an accident, change your clothes immediately and wash yourself well.  The same goes for any urine collection devices.  Make sure that you are completely cleansing any reusable parts appropriately. 

3.  Find Products Designed To Help

Some absorbent products actually contain odor-reducing materials that can help keep odor from leaks at bay. 

4.  Cleanse Your Space

If you’re hosting the party, you may need to think about more than just your clothes.  Wash your bed sheets often (and as soon as possible after an accident) using white vinegar, baking soda, or even ammonia as a booster (never combine them though!).  Invest in an air freshener to eliminate smell, and always clean up any leaks from other surfaces in your home as soon as they happen.

Follow these tips and you’ll be ready to hit the party circuit in style – and odor free!

We want to hear from you!  What other tips do you have for managing incontinence-related odors?  Share them in the comments below!

Clean & Odor Free

Staying Clean And Odor Free When You Have Incontinence

People with bladder control problems are often concerned about odor. Advertisements on television and in magazines remind us not to offend others with “unpleasant” odors. Concerns about how we are perceived by others when sitting in church or standing in the supermarket checkout line is natural, and people with bladder control problems need to pay attention to deodorizing their skin and urinary products.

What causes urine to smell bad?

Normal urine does not necessarily have a foul smell. Many people with bladder control problems limit the amount of fluids they drink in hopes of reducing troublesome leakage. This causes the urine to become highly concentrated. It will appear dark yellow and have a bad odor.

You can prevent your urine from having an unpleasant odor by drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. Diluted, uninfected urine does not have a strong or unpleasant odor. Infection is also a cause of foul-smelling urine. If a strong or foul-smelling odor exists, contact your physician for diagnosis and treatment of a possible urinary tract infection. If an infection goes untreated, it can sometimes damage the kidneys.

There are other causes of odor in the urine. Some foods, beverages, and medications affect the smell of urine. This depends on each person’s body chemistry but everyone seems to identify asparagus and coffee as producing a stronger, more distinct odor.

Some medications may also change the way your urine smells or looks, so be sure to talk to your pharmacist if you are taking a new medicine and note a difference in the way your urine looks or smells.

What can I do about it?

Internal deodorant tablets such as Derifil® or Nullo® have proven useful to many incontinent people. The deodorizing tablets are taken by mouth, and the manufacturers’ instructions advise that it takes time (2 to 14 days) to get satisfactory results.

Vitamin C is another effective urine deodorizer. Speak to your healthcare professional about this; it might not be good for you to take vitamin C because of other medical conditions you have or other medicines you are taking. You should not substitute the vitamin C in tablets with vitamin C in citrus fruits and juices. Citrus fruits and juices may cause your urine to be irritating to your bladder and may cause a bad odor in the urine too.

If you have a normal, healthy bladder and no problems with frequency or pain before or during urination, good juices for you to drink are cranberry, cherry, apple, pear nectar, and other non-citrus juices. Non-carbonated water is always best.

To keep urine acidic and naturally reduce odor, drinking cranberry juice (6 to 8 ounces a day) may be helpful. If you are diabetic or overweight, be careful! Cranberry juice is high in sugar. Look for a low-calorie cranberry drink.

How do I control odors?

The best way to control odors is a combination of good hygiene and the use of commercially-prepared cleansers and deodorants. Overall body cleanliness and the use of fresh, clean undergarments daily are essential. After voiding or having bowel movements, wipe from front to back. Clean the area after each pad or appliance change with a gentle cleanser — rinsing and drying thoroughly.

If the skin is dry or reddened, a moisturizing cream may be used. For further skin protection, a protective ointment (not urine soluble) may be applied to the skin as a final step. Keeping skin, appliances, and pads clean and frequently washed or changed is the best guarantee against odor.

What if I wear incontinence products?

When you buy disposable absorbent products, read the package to see if there is an odor-reducing material in the pad or garment. This should not be a perfume but rather a material that actually prevents odor from forming. If you are wearing absorbent products or collection devices, there are several important steps you should take to guard against odor.

First of all, the urine and stool must be contained. Adult briefs and pads should be worn close to the body. A properly fitted adult brief or a pad held in place by a stretch mesh brief or an incontinence pant will insure that you are not offensive to anyone nearby. Urine collection devices, such as a condom catheter, external pouch, or leg bag, should be leakproof and air tight.

All reusable parts should be disinfected regularly with a commercial cleaner or with a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Bleach is harsh and, though it kills bacteria, it does not dissolve urine crystals the way vinegar and commercial cleansers do. It’s best to clean appliances the way the manufacturer recommends.

Always dispose of products in an airtight container. When traveling or sharing a house with others, dispose of each incontinence garment in a plastic bag with a zip-style seal.

How can I get rid of odor?

When stool or urine gets on your bed linens or clothing, wash them immediately. If you depend on a helper to do your wash or to take you to a laundromat, store the soiled items in an airtight container.

Baking soda or white vinegar added to the wash water may eliminate odor in clothes and linens. Use one or the other, not a combination of the two. If you are using white vinegar in the wash water, follow it with one or two cold water rinses.

Clothing made of 100% polyester may have to be thrown away, because it is difficult to get the smell out of this fabric.

The air around you also deserves attention. Use an air freshener that neutralizes odors, not one that leaves a strong smell of perfume. Potpourri and incense, available in grocery stores, drug stores, and card shops, will keep your house smelling fresh.

Sometimes people are not aware that an odor is present. If you are incontinent, find someone you trust to tell you honestly if there is any odor anywhere.