If your child has begun to self-catheterize all on their own, you're probably very proud of their big step. However, as they go back to school this fall, you may also have some concerns and questions about their transition to self-cathing at school.
For example, will your child be able to discreetly carry and use their catheters? Can they store all their needed catheter supplies at school? Will they be able to self-cath in a public restroom without getting a urinary tract infection?
Those questions are perfectly understandable, and we want to help.
Here are some of the top tips for preparing your child to self-cath on their own at school, including advice from pediatric urology nurses who work with kids who cath every day.
Tips for Preparing to Self-Cath at School1. Plan in advance, and visit the school with your child.
Schedule a time to visit your child's school, and speak with their teacher, school nurse, and any other necessary school administrators.
Some of the topics to discuss may include:
- your child's condition & their requirement of catheter to drain their bladder
- the need for discretion and privacy
- available storage options at the school
The teacher will typically make reasonable accommodations, like allowing bathroom breaks at particular times of the day so your child can empty their bladder according to their doctor's prescribed intermittent cathing schedule.
Be aware that a doctor's note will likely be required for any related requests like this.
Andrea Brown, RN of Pediatric Urology at OUHSC, advises to "keep backup catheters with a teacher or office staff away from their regular supply, just in case their daily stash gets low or runs out."
The school will probably have an option to store your child's backup catheter supply in lockable storage, like a private closet, locker, or in the school nurse's office. This way, if your child ever happens to use more catheters than usual during the day, you can both rest assured that there will be additional stock always on hand for them.
You will also want to make sure your child understands and can follow their prescribed self-cathing schedule.
A good way to set reminders is on a programmable watch or even on their phone. If your child has trouble remembering when to cath and doesn't have an option for setting reminders, let the teacher know what times of day or when your child should take a short break to go to the restroom and catheterize.
2. Find a discreet way for your child to carry and dispose of their catheter supplies.
The scariest part of heading back to school as a child who caths is worrying about what others might think if they find out, so of course, it's natural to want to keep their need for self-cathing private.
The good news is that there are plenty of options for privately carrying catheter supplies in public. Angela Harting, Lead LPN at OU Physicians Pediatric Urology, suggests options for keeping catheter supplies discreet like "a makeup case, backpack, or eyeglasses case."
Andrea Brown suggests wearing clothes with pockets and, "if possible, use pocket-sized catheters."
"Most kids use a cinch bag to keep their supplies in," says Brandi Capps, RN and BSN at Duke Pediatric Urology. "Using hydrophilic catheters are also helpful, so they don't have to keep track of so many supplies."
If your child's restroom at school does not have trash receptacles in the stalls where they can quickly and easily throw away their pediatric cathing supplies, they'll have to use the main trash can in the restroom, usually located near the sinks. This doesn't mean that their privacy has to be compromised. Simply provide them with the amount of disposal bags they would need along with their daily supplies. Some find that simple brown paper lunch bags do the trick.
Some closed system catheters include a separate bag for discreet disposal. Ask our Product Specialists about which options might be right for your child.
For more ideas, check out our blog "10 Ways to Carry Your Catheter Supplies Discreetly."
3. Discuss maintaining proper hygiene with your child.
Above all else, "washing their hands is key," says Brandi Capps. Talk to your child about the importance of washing their hands with antibacterial soap and warm water before and after self-cathing to reduce the risk of infection.
Angela Harting also advises that your child should carry hand sanitizer in their pocket, backpack, or other tote for quick and easy hand-cleaning when water and soap aren't available.
4. Make sure your child knows what to do in an emergency.
As a parent or caregiver of a child with special needs, you probably know what to do in case of an emergency. However, at school, your child will need to know how to reach out for help in certain situations.
Angela Harting advises that in case of any minor emergency, let your child know to "go to their teacher, their school nurse, or other trained staff while at school." She says it's also important that they know how to call you or another trusted family member or caregiver in case of small emergencies, like running out of supplies too soon in the day.
She also says to remember that your child's doctor and/or pediatric urology team is just a phone call away.
180 Medical is here for you as well, especially in the case of catheter product questions, supply refills, and other related needs.
As always, in any serious medical emergency, their teacher should call 911.
5. Try an advanced pediatric catheter.
There are plenty of benefits to using an advanced pediatric catheter, like a hydrophilics or closed systems. Many of these benefits apply to the above tips, especially regarding discretion, ease of use and storage, and hygiene to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
However, it's important to make sure your child is comfortable with using their new catheter product and have used it on their own at home with your supervision, if necessary, before bringing it to school to use on their own.
Hydrophilic catheters almost always include an adhesive tab on the back of the package to press and hang on the wall securely, rather than having to put it on the floor or trying to juggle all their supplies. With hydrophilic catheters, there is often considerably less mess and less supplies to worry about, which means they're easier to carry and pocket.
Closed system catheters are considered "all-in-one" catheters, because along with a hydrophilic or pre-lubricated catheter, the package also contains insertion supplies, such as antibacterial wipes, an underpad, gloves, and even a collection bag for easy drainage. Most brands also feature a soft, flexible introducer tip that is pre-lubricated, and this tip helps the catheter tube itself to bypass the highest concentrations of bacteria on the outside and in the first few millimeters of your child's urethra. This can have a positive impact on reducing the risk of infection.
Both hydrophilic catheters and closed system catheters are essentially "touch-free," thanks to options like gripping sleeves that can help your child manipulate the catheter without ever having to touch the tube itself. This may reduce the risk of contamination from hands.
6. Check out the 180 Medical Kids Club.
By joining the 180 Medical Kids Club, your child will receive a free drawstring bag filled with some fun activities that help normalize the idea of self-cathing for children.
Perfect for carrying catheters and other lightweight school supplies discreetly, each bag includes a colorful book for both girls and boys with a story highlighting two characters, Ethan and Emma, who have Spina Bifida and self-cath. In this fun illustrated story, your child can learn that cathing all on their own is important for keeping them healthy and increasing their independence.
If your child is still in the process of learning how to self-cath on their own, the kit also includes catheter guides for children, as well as step-by-step information that will help them learn how to perform self-catheterization (whether they are cathing through their urethra or a stoma).
Still unsure if your child is ready to self-catheterize? Read our blog post to find out how to know if they are able and ready to start cathing on their own. This way you and your child can feel more confident as they start their new journey of learning pediatric catheter insertion.
Check out the 180 Medical Kids Club today!
180 Medical Is Here for Your Pediatric Catheter Supply NeedsFor more information about catheter supplies that can help make your child's cathing routine easier, more hygienic, and discreet, reach out to our live online chat option at www.180medical.com during business hours or call us toll-free at 1-877-688-2729.
Our Product Specialists will be happy to discuss any other questions or concerns you may have, and they can suggest and sample options of catheters that may fit your child's lifestyle and needs while keeping their need for catheterization discreet.
Good luck to you and your child in the new school year!
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About the Author:
Jessica is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator, & she has been with 180 Medical for 9 years. To her, the best part of working at 180 Medical is the opportunity to truly make a difference in peoples' lives. In her downtime, she enjoys creative writing, seeing new places, & spending time with her loved ones & her dogs.