Nothing can ruin a day at the movies or trip to the mall faster than a Crohn’s disease flare-up. When diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas strike, they don’t wait. You’ll need to drop everything and find a bathroom.
If you’re someone who’s living with Crohn’s disease, the thought of having diarrhea in a public restroom may prevent you from going out entirely. But with a few helpful strategies, you can beat your anxiety and get back out into the world.
It’s hard to think of a more stressful situation than needing to use the restroom and not being able to find a public one. Many states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas, have passed the Restroom Access Act, or Ally’s Law. This law gives people with medical conditions the right to use employee restrooms if public bathrooms aren’t available.
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation also offers its members a Restroom Request Card, which will help you get access to any open bathroom. Call 800-932-2423 for more information. You can also get this card by visiting their site.
Afraid you won’t be able to find a bathroom at your destination? There’s an app for that. Actually, there are a few. SitOrSquat, an app developed by Charmin, will help you locate the nearest restroom. You can also rate a bathroom, or read other user reviews of the facilities. Other toilet-finding apps include Bathroom Scout and Flush.
If you’re in a public restroom or at a friend’s house, it can be hard to hide the sound of what you’re doing. If you’re in a single-person bathroom, one easy trick is to run water in the sink.
In a multiperson bathroom, muffling the mini-explosions and loud plops is much trickier. You could play music on your phone, although that might draw more attention to you. One tip is to put a layer of toilet paper in the toilet bowl before you go. The paper will absorb some of the sound. Another trick is to flush often, which will lessen odors too.
Given the urgent way the need to go can strike, you have to be prepared. Carry your own toilet paper and wipes in case the closest restroom isn’t well stocked. Also, bring baby wipes to clean up any messes, a plastic bag to dispose of dirty items, and an extra set of clean underwear.
Crohn’s attacks don’t smell pretty, and if you’re in close quarters, your neighbors might be in for a nose-full if you aren’t careful. For starters, flush often to remove the source of the odor. You can also use a scented spray like Poo-Pourri. Spritz it into the toilet before you go to help mask the smell.
Having a bout of diarrhea in a public bathroom can be difficult, but try to put it into perspective. Everyone poops — whether they have Crohn’s disease or not. Chances are, the person sitting next to you has had a similar experience due to food poisoning or a stomach bug. It’s unlikely that someone will judge you for doing what we all do. And, in all likelihood, you’re never going to see anyone from that public bathroom again.
When you’re finished, you can hide all evidence of the incident by leaving the bathroom as you found it. Clean up any splashes around the toilet seat or floor, and make sure all of the toilet paper makes its way into the bowl. Flush twice to make sure everything goes down.