We here at 180 Medical empathize with the concerns you may have as a parent of a child that has a condition which requires them to use catheters to drain their bladder and stay healthy. For example, Spina Bifida is one of the more common conditions that affects children as young as newborns.
While you may be in charge of your child’s prescribed intermittent catheterization routine for their first formative years, you may wonder when is the right time or age for them to learn to self-cath on their own. Rest assured that there are kids as young as 5 years old that successfully self-cath daily. So reaching a certain age is actually not as important as a few other major factors that can show you they are ready to self-catheterize, such as reliability and responsibility, as well as a pro-active expression for more independence and wanting to learn to intermittently catheterize on their own.
Activities to Test If Your Child is Ready to Learn Self-Catheterization
Louisa Salvin, an RN at in the Pediatric Urology Department at SSM Cardinal Glennon Medical Center, has graciously provided the below information that may help you determine if your child with is physically ready to begin self-cathing.
“Certain physical and mental abilities are required in order to successfully learn to do self-catherization. Try these different activities to determine if your child may be ready to learn:
- Hold a pencil with a pincer grasp and do up and down strokes.
- Thread a shoelace.
- With eyes closed, feel a hole and place a peg in it.
- With your child watching you, place three objects in a bag. Do something else for a few minutes. Then have the child tell you what’s in the bag and in what order the objects were placed in the bag.”
Tips For Successful Self-Catheterization for Kids
If your child seems ready to start using catheters all on their own, the next step is to make sure they have all the materials and information they need to continue their self-cathing routine on their own while maintaining proper hygiene and privacy.
Here are a few helpful tips:
Ease your child into self-cathing on their own.
There’s no need for a sense of urgency about it; the process of transitioning from you cathing your child to them cathing on their own can take time. This is completely fine to ease slowly into it. Some find going step by step to be helpful so that your child can remember every part of the process to make sure their catheterization routine is done hygienically and correctly each time.
Use reminders to cath on time
Consider setting alarms on a smartphone or a watch similar to these options that are able to set multiple alarms during the day according to your child’s prescribed catheterization regimen. These can remind you and your child both when it’s time to cath.
Have the catheter supplies on hand and ready to go.
Depending on the catheter type your child uses, make sure you have all the necessary accessories, such as additional lubricant, gloves to fit their hands, antiseptic wipes, and a good amount of catheter supplies on hand for the day. For your kids who are ready to go to school or plan to go on a trip, having an all-in-one kit like a closed system catheter can really make a difference in ease of use.
Make sure they understand proper hygiene.
Talk with your child about their hygiene before and after cathing, particularly washing their hands thoroughly. You may also look into supplying your child with gloves and/or antiseptic wipes to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections or spreading germs.
Watch for the signs of a UTI.
Especially when they are first learning the process of how to properly cath, it’s important to watch for symptoms such as pain, burning, blood or sediment in the urine output, an increased urgency or frequency, or a fever. If symptoms of a UTI begin to occur, contact your child’s doctor as soon as possible.
Offer support throughout the process.
Be supportive and patient as your child learns on their own. Even as you begin to back off and let them take the reins for their own health, positive encouragement and making sure they follow their catheterization schedule is crucial to their success.
Sign up for the 180 Medical Kids Club.
A great starting point for your child will be to sign up for the 180 Medical Kids Club. This awesome program was created just for you and your child to begin adjusting to the new process of independently cathing. Right off the bat, you will receive a drawstring backpack filled with one-of-a-kind educational materials and activities, along with a few additional fun surprises, and your child can begin learning more about Ethan & Emma, 180 Medical’s own storybook characters who have Spina Bifida and can help emphasize the normality and ease of using catheters in everyday life.
The Kids’ Club also helps teach how to use intermittent catheters correctly to reduce the chance of infection. Click here to sign your child up for the Kids Club today!
Keep in mind that each situation and condition is as unique as the individual who needs catheters, so please consult with your child’s prescribing healthcare professional to determine if they believe your child is ready to use catheters on their own and what type of catheter may be best for their needs. You can view our selection of pediatric catheters here.
If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to contact our friendly, highly-trained specialists.
180 Medical is a respected national supplier of intermittent catheters and related supplies, and we are here to help you and your child find the best intermittent catheters for their needs.