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7 Ways to Prevent CAUTIs While Traveling

Traveling can be stressful for those who regularly self-catheterize. What if you can’t find bathrooms and hand-washing stations? What if you get a CAUTI (catheter-associated UTI) on the road and can’t access medical care quickly?

This article talks about 7 ways to prevent CAUTI while traveling for people who use intermittent catheters. 

When traveling you are in a foreign environment, you don’t know if the bathrooms are clean, if there are soap and running water, or if there is any bathroom at all. Therefore it is important to prepare for these situations in the following ways. 

1. Bring travel catheters that are compact, no-touch, and pre-lubricated

When you’re on the road, there are so many unknowns. You may be in a situation where you can’t wash your hands. Touching the catheter with your germ-ridden hands is very likely to give you an infection.

A catheter with a no-touch design means you don’t have to touch the catheter tube as you insert it. Researchers have handled both no-touch catheters and normal catheters with germ-infected gloves and found that there is often no bacteria detectable on the no-touch catheters.

Even if you’re not used to using this kind of catheter, you can look into it for your trip. Practice using them before you go on the trip. You don’t want to run into problems when you’re already on the road. If you don’t have insurance and non-touch catheters are costly to you, you can bring a few and use them when you’re unable to wash your hands properly. 

Travel catheters are often no-touch for hygienic reasons, but they are also compact, light and pre-lubricated. This means they take little room and don’t add on a lot of weight to your luggage, and you can catheterize more quickly and easily. 

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CompactCath travel catheter (shown next to iPhone) is small, no-touch and pre-lubricated with anti-bacterial silicone oil.

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2. Bring closed system catheters

If you’re traveling in a place where you know bathroom access is limited, bring some closed system catheters. Closed system catheters come with a urine collection bag attached to the catheter. This means you don’t have to use a toilet when you’re catheterizing, you can self-catheterize in any private space and empty the collection bag later. Closed system catheters are also no-touch and pre-lubricated. Though they may not be compact, they can come in handy. 

3. Bring antiseptic wipes, gloves, and hand sanitizer

If you are using catheters that are not no-touch, it is especially important to bring these items, though you should also clean your hands before using a no-touch catheter. 

Use antiseptic wipes, gloves, or hand-sanitizer to disinfect your hands before you catheterize if soap and water are not available. These are just some common alternatives to hand-washing, ask your doctor if they have other recommendations. 

Bringing antiseptic wipes is very important even if you are using no-touch catheters because you need to use them to disinfect your urethral opening before catheterization. If the catheter is sterile but there are bacteria around your urethral opening, the catheter can push the bacteria into your urinary tract causing a CAUTI. 

4. Don’t reuse intermittent catheters

Most intermittent catheters on the market are single-use only, which means they should not be reused at all. Reusing them is unsanitary and significantly increases your risk of CAUTI. 

If you have reusable intermittent catheters that you sterilize every time before reuse, you may want to consider switching to single-use catheters, especially if you already suffer from frequent UTIs. 

Researchers have recommended single-use catheters over reusable ones because people make mistakes in the sterilization process and don’t disinfect their catheters completely. One study finds that washing catheters with antibacterial soap still resulted in 44% of catheters being E. coli ridden, and combining anti-bacterial wash with microwave-treatment also resulted in 26% of catheters having E. coli. 

If you’re on a trip where you don’t have ready access to medical help, it might be better to play it safe. 

The above are some basic hygiene tips to avoid CAUTI. Here are some additional resources on compact catheters, and how to bring catheters on a plane

5. Stay hydrated

If you use intermittent catheters, you know that you are at an increased risk of UTI not only due to catheter-usage but also due to urinary retention. Therefore you need to avoid UTIs in general. 

Staying hydrated and urinating helps your body rid itself of bacteria and toxins. UTIs are often caused when bacteria in the bladder multiply, so it’s important to flush them out regularly.

If you are bad at staying hydrated, here are some tips to help you drink more water

6. Don’t resist the urge to go

Bacteria can grow and multiply when urine stays in the bladder for a prolonged time, so when you feel the urge to urinate, you should. If there is no bathroom available, that’s when the closed-system catheter you’ve brought come into use. 

7. Consult your doctor before traveling

Before you travel, you should talk to your doctor about your plans to see whether or not your condition is fit for travel and to see what recommendations your doctor has. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, and see what kinds of medicine you should bring for your trip. This article doesn’t substitute any medical device given by your doctor. If your risk of getting a UTI is deemed high and you’re traveling for more than a few days, you may also want to look into travel health insurance. 

If you’re traveling soon, check out CompactCath

CompactCath’s catheters are compact, no-touch, and pre-lubricated with anti-bacterial silicone oil. They’re great for traveling and everyday use. Here are some customer reviews posted on the public, third-party review website reviews.io (click link for more reviews):

“CompactCath has made traveling a joy again. The pre-lubricated compact [catheter] is easy to use anywhere. Thank You”—Dennis M.

“They are great for travel and so easy to use. I have them in my car and truck. When I fly they are so convenient to use.”—Harold Nolan

“Very convenient to use and travel with.”—Anonymous

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