The Link Between Cold, Flu and Urinary Incontinence

You may discover that incontinence incidents happen more
frequently when you have a cold or the flu. These tips for urinary incontinence during flu season can help.

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flu cold incontinence

If you or your loved one is experiencing incontinence, you’ll know that it can take place at any time of the day or night.

While a number of lifestyle and medication strategies can be useful in managing incontinence, there are several triggers that can lead to more frequent incontinence to be aware of. This includes suffering with a cold or the flu!

Read on to find our tips for urinary incontinence during flu season.

cold and incontinence connection

Why is there a connection between a cold & incontinence?

When we catch a cold, it’s common to experience sneezing and coughing as a result of the infection. This can put direct pressure on the bladder because of the increased pressure on the abdomen, leading to further leakage and a lack of control with urination or bowel movements.1

Congestion and runny noses can create a chicken-egg situation where the harder it is to breathe, the more we’re likely to cough or sneeze, creating that ongoing abdominal pressure. However, if you’re turning to over-the-counter cold medications, such as decongestants, you may also experience side effects like needing to urinate more often, creating parallel issues with incontinence.2

Alongside the increase in pressure, infection and inflammation can also lead to the development of incontinence. It’s a lesser-known fact that the urinary tract and the bladder themselves are at risk of getting infected during a cold. Just as any other part of our body gets infected, this can be disruptive to the regular processes, resulting in increased urgency, frequency of incontinence incidents and leakage.

common triggers for incontinence

Common triggers for incontinence incidents

Incontinence can be triggered by a wide range of things. This can make it difficult to find a management approach for your individual incontinence needs, as what works well for one person may not be suitable for the next. But by understanding the kinds of triggers that may lead to an increase in incontinence, you can identify the tools and resources necessary to minimise its impact on your daily activities.

  • Particular foods and drinks

    Common food and drink triggers for incontinence are most likely already in your fridge and pantry. Spicy food, acidic ingredients and caffeine are all likely culprits for increased incontinence. These foods and drinks can cause irritation to both the bladder and the urinary tract, increasing the urgency and frequency of urination or of bowel movements.3 For those looking to relieve pressure from their bladders, it’s best to reduce these foods and drinks where possible.

    If you’ve got a cold and you’re experiencing heightened incontinence, take note of the food and drink you’re consuming. Identifying any trigger items can help to alleviate incontinence as you rest and recover.

  • Stress

    Being unwell can be a cause for stress in and of itself. Unfortunately, this heightened state can result in worsened incontinence symptoms, so it’s important to minimise your stress if you’re trying to get rid of a cold.

    Stress can lead to the tightening of muscles in the pelvic area, which makes it more difficult for them to hold urine in the bladder. When our bodies are stressed, they release a concoction of hormones, including adrenaline, that lead to this muscle tightening. The result can be an increase in the urgency and frequency of urination, as well as more difficulty in resisting the urge to urinate.

  • Cold / flu medications and incontinence

    We often reach for cold and flu medication when we realise we’ve come down with the sniffles. While these medications can help in reducing the intensity of cold and flu symptoms (and supporting your body as it works to get rid of the infection), a side effect can be more frequent incontinence incidents.

    Decongestants and antihistamines are two of the most common over-the-counter cold and flu medications used to ward off a cold. Unfortunately, they can lead to an increase in‌ urination, often adding more pressure to the bladder while it’s in the midst of fighting infection.

    Some medications may also cause a feeling of dry mouth, resulting in dehydration. Urine becomes more concentrated when the body is dehydrated, causing further irritation of the bladder.

    Your pharmacist or GP will advise on which cold and flu medication is going to be of best use in managing your cold symptoms, while also aiming to minimise the side effects that could lead to further incontinence issues. If you’re taking any other medication related to incontinence or an underlying condition, it’s important to seek the advice of a health professional before introducing new medication to the mix.
manage incontinence when you're sick

How to manage incontinence when you’re unwell

Managing incontinence at the same time as fighting a cold can be challenging, with multiple symptoms demanding your attention. You’re already low on energy, and now your body’s asking for more of it!

By implementing some simple coping strategies, you can support your body’s health and wellbeing as it fights off the infection and moves towards recovery.

These strategies include:

  1. Remain hydrated. Water is one of the best, and simplest, tools when it comes to fighting off a cold. Fluids help to flush out the urinary tract and reduce inflammation.

  2. Focus on your nutrition. Warming, healing meals are key when it comes to managing a cold while minimising incontinence. Stay away from trigger foods and drinks, such as spicy or acidic foods and caffeine, as these are likely to make your incontinence worse.

  3. Carefully choose your medications. Your GP will advise on which medications will help to relax your bladder muscles (making it easier to hold in urine) while combating the cold’s infection.

  4. Practise your Kegels. Pelvic floor exercises can help to build the strength of your pelvic floor in preparation for an illness or infection. You can complete these at any time and in any place since they’re so discreet, so by working these into your regular exercise routine, you can prepare for your next cold or flu infection.

These strategies can also be of great use if you’re looking for ways to manage incontinence
on a daily basis, with or without a cold. By combining a wide range of lifestyle choices and
preventative measures, you may be able to reduce the frequency or intensity of incontinence
incidents.

confidence when it counts

Confidence when it counts

If you’re in need of extra support for incontinence management during your next cold or flu,
ConfidenceClub’s commitment to comfort can help you navigate periods of sickness and

infection. With a wide range of continence management products specifically designed to
meet individual needs, you’ll find the high-quality, European-made continence management products necessary to give you full peace of mind as you recover.

If you have any questions about our product range, you can speak to our customer service team 6 days a week, by calling 1800 86 11 99 or emailing hello@confidenceclub.com.au. We also have an online chat on our website. We’re here to help!

We hope this article has helped shed some light on what to expect regarding the link between cold, flu and incontinence. Why not check out our other helpful articles while you’re here?

PADS & GUARDS

Slimline underwear protection for small leaks or voids

PANTS

Comfortable pull-up pants with superior absorbency

SLIPS

High absorbency all-in-one slips for urinary and faecal incontinence

YOUTH

Pull-up pants designed for children and teens aged 4-15

Citations

1 Causes of Urinary & Bladder Incontinence | Canadian Continence Foundation. (n.d.). The Canadian Continence Foundation. https://www.canadiancontinence.ca/EN/causes-of-urinary-incontinence.php
2 C, P. (2020, October 18). Are your medications causing urinary incontinence? PROCURE.
https://www.procure.ca/en/2020/10/18/medications-causing-urinary-incontinence/
3 L, H., & man. (2017, July 27). Incontinence Diet Part I: Foods to Avoid. Avacare Medical Blog.
https://www.avacaremedical.com/blog/incontinence-diet-foods-to-avoid.html

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