When you live with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease, life is a series of “what if” questions.
“What if I my symptoms suddenly strike and I’m not near a bathroom?”
“What if I soil my clothes?”
“What if I accidentally pass gas while I’m out with friends?”
With symptoms like diarrhea that strike without warning, anxiety over embarrassment is real — and constant.
Yet having Crohn’s disease doesn’t have to ruin your social life or stop you from doing all the things you enjoy. As long as you put a little planning in place, you can have an active social life with less fear of humiliation.
Plan out your day
Be aware of the times of day your symptoms strike and plan your schedule accordingly. For example, if you often get diarrhea in the late afternoon, try to be near a bathroom or stay at home during that time.
Know your triggers
Keep a diary to track your Crohn’s triggers. For instance, if you find out that ice cream or fried chicken sets off your symptoms, stay away from dairy and fried foods as much as you can.
Bring a change of clothes
Diarrhea can strike without warning. If you dirty your clothes, it’s helpful to have a change on hand. At the least, always carry clean underwear and pants. A long shirt or jacket can serve as a cover-up if you have an accident.
Carry a cleaning kit
Besides a change of clothes, always have cleaning supplies on hand. Bring baby wipes to clean yourself up after accidents and a deodorizer to mask odors.
Always having to worry about accidental leaks can be exhausting. Wear an odor-absorbing pad to give yourself peace of mind.
Find the nearest bathroom
Find out whether there’s a bathroom nearby when you make plans to go out. For instance, a park or far-away beach may not be a good option if there aren’t accessible bathrooms. And wherever you go, find the nearest bathroom as soon as you get there.
Always bring medicines that stop diarrhea and gas. Taking these drugs can put a quick end to uncomfortable symptoms. Also, make sure you stick to the treatment plan your doctor prescribed. Anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing drugs can keep your symptoms under control so that they don’t make a surprise appearance.
Bring your own car whenever you go out. That way you can make a hasty exit if symptoms strike.
Get a Restroom Request Card
If you have trouble finding a bathroom when you go out, contact the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. They offer their members cards that provide access to any working bathroom — such as staff bathrooms in stores. Call 800-932-2423 for more information. You can also get a Restroom Request Card by visiting their site.
Mask odors and sounds
Having diarrhea is hard enough, but adding the element of a public restroom may make the embarrassment factor worse for you. Try tricks like flushing the toilet often or running water in the sink to cover the sound. Carry a bottle of disinfectant, perfume, or bathroom spray to conceal odors.
Have a friend on deck
Have a trusted friend to call in case of emergency. That person should understand your situation, be sympathetic to it, and be willing to show up with an extra pair of pants or take you to the nearest toilet when you need it. It’s helpful to have an ally at work or school too.
Learn to laugh at yourself
Sometimes you won’t be able to avoid embarrassment — like if you have a blowout in a friend’s bathroom or you pass gas at dinner. Though it can be hard to laugh in these instances, humor can be a great way to manage the situation. If you can laugh at yourself, your friends will laugh with you and not at you.
Join a support group
Who can understand the troubles of Crohn’s disease better than other people who are living with it? Ask your gastroenterologist or call the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation to find a support group in your area. At meetings, you’ll not only connect with people who get what you’re going through, but also learn new strategies for managing your condition.