What to Do in Case of Bathroom Accidents

It's an unfortunate fact of life for some people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who have severe diarrhea with their flare-ups: bathroom accidents and fecal soiling. We have to face it—these things can and do happen to people who have Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. But it's not just people with digestive disease—bathroom accidents can even happen to people who don’t have IBD. 

Having an accident can shake you to the very core. It can make you question your ability to be a productive person, and may leave you feeling as though you can never leave your house or your comfort zone. The good news is that there are things that you can do to manage bathroom accidents. You do not have to stay inside your house for fear of having an accident. Learn how to put a plan in place to help yourself in the event that you do have an accident, and then start living your life.

Prepare an Emergency Kit

Emergency Kit

The best way to deal with bathroom accidents is to be prepared before it ever occurs. The way you prepare will depend largely on your lifestyle, but there are some rules of thumb you can follow. Having an emergency kit is a great start. You can keep your emergency kit wherever it will be most advantageous to you. For some, that could mean in a desk drawer, or for others, it could mean a school locker or the trunk of a car. Wherever you keep your emergency kit, it should be readily accessible to you in an emergency, and preferably private (such as a locked drawer). Your kit will contain items that are most specifically helpful to you, but in general, it should contain a change of underclothes, soap, wet wipes, and possibly a washcloth or towel. Put your emergency kit items in a nondescript bag or backpack—something you can grab in a hurry if you need to dash to the restroom.

Have a Plan in Place

Direction To The Lobby

You have your emergency kit in place, now you need to make a plan as to what you’re going to do if you have an accident while you’re at work or at school. One idea is to have a trusted confidant be available to help you. This could be a classmate, a teacher, a co-worker, a supervisor—anyone who will be helpful to you in a hurry. This person can help you get to a restroom and run interference for you with others while you get cleaned up. Another idea is to have your actions in an emergency already planned out. You should know how you are going to get to your emergency kit, where you are going to go in order to get cleaned up, and what you are going to tell your boss or your teacher about your absence. You may want to have different plans in place depending on the scenario, and where you are at the time. Even if you never use your plan, it will go a long way to reducing your stress if you have one already in place.

Don’t Panic

Calm Water

It’s easy to panic when a bathroom accident happens. You may react by becoming frozen in place, or even feeling the need to flee and run away. You may also be in some discomfort (or even significant pain) from your IBD. This, understandably, can leave you feeling very panicked and unsure what to do next. What you need to do, however, is put your action plans into place, and use a stress-reducing technique to get your racing mind under control. You hopefully have some stress-reducing plans already in place for use on an everyday basis, which could be anything from deep breathing exercises to visualization. If you don’t currently have a stress-reducing plan in place, now is the time to start one, and include it into your bathroom accidents emergency plan.

Should You See Your Doctor?

If you are having trouble making it to the bathroom, you should talk to your gastroenterologist about it. If it's a rare occurrence that a serious bout of IBD-related diarrhea leads to fecal soiling, the best way to prevent further incidents is probably to get the IBD under control. However, if uncontrollable diarrhea is happening on a frequent basis and you find yourself truly unable to get away from a toilet, see your doctor right away. Your doctor can determine if the problems you're having are due to more than just an IBD flare-up.

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