There are lots of reasons why your child might need a urinary catheter, like spina bifida, spinal cord injuries and other conditions that lead to urinary retention and incontinence. The type of catheter your child uses can affect their ability to play sports and be active, so it’s important to do your research on your child’s options. Sports and other activities are an important part of your child’s social development, and if possible, you should pick a catheter that will allow them to take part in these activities. Your child’s healthcare provider can help you decide what type of catheter your child should use depending on your child’s needs.

Types of Catheters

Foley Catheters

These types of catheters are among the least common. They’re typically used during and after surgery in children’s hospitals. Foley catheters, also known as indwelling catheters, make it a lot harder for your child to continue to stay active. Like other types of catheters, foley catheters are inserted into your child’s bladder through the urethra, but unlike other catheters, they’re not taken out after every use. Instead, foley catheters continue to drain your child’s urine throughout the day, collecting it in a drainage bag that fills and must be changed multiple times a day to prevent urinary tract infections. 

When your child is active, the tubes connecting the catheter to the urine bag run the risk of getting kinks or worse, tugging on the tip of the catheter from where it enters your child’s bladder through the urethra. Your child should be extremely careful when being active while using a foley catheter.

Mitrofanoff Catheter

These catheters are similar to foley catheters. Instead of entering your child’s bladder through the urethra, they’re inserted intermittently using a tube that goes through your child’s navel. These types of catheters are good for children because they create a self-sealing passage, making it easy for your child to insert a catheter as needed to help drain urine. 

Suprapubic Catheter

Like foley catheters, suprapubic catheters are inserted by a healthcare professional. These indwelling catheters will be inserted by a healthcare professional, so you don’t have to worry about doing it on your own, though you and your child will be responsible for cleaning your catheter and its drainage bag, and they can make it hard for your child to stay active, as the urine flows from the child’s body, through the catheter, and to the urine bag. 

External Catheter

Unlike foley and suprapubic catheters, external catheters don’t enter the body. Like their name suggests, they collect urine externally. They’re rarely ever used for females or for children who are active, and in most cases are used by caregivers in place of a diaper.

Intermittent Catheter

Intermittent catheters are among the most commonly used catheters, and are typically the best option if your child is active and wants to pursue activities like playing sports. However, intermittent catheters require self-catheterization, which means your child will need to learn how to use their catheter on their own. The process isn’t a difficult one, but it requires your child learn how to insert the tip of the catheter through their own urethra or other entry into the bladder, which can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, once your child gets a lot of practice, it isn’t so bad. To make self-cathing on the go easier for your child, here are some tips to follow.

1. Establish a Self-Cathing Routine 

If your child is busy having fun with their friends or sports team, they might forget that it’s time to self-cath. This can lead to problems such as bladder and urinary tract infections. It’s important to establish a routine before your child starts playing sports so they can stick to a schedule and avoid these types of complications.

A good way to make sure your child is following their routine is by setting alarms on their phone or watch to remind them they should be self-cathing. Be sure to share your child’s health information with their coach (if they’re on a sports team) or one of the attending parents so they can help keep your child accountable when it comes to their schedule.

For help teaching your child how to practice clean intermittent catheterization (cic), you can check out our article about self-catheterization for kids.

2. Teach Your Child Proper Hygiene

Your child should always wash their hands with warm water and antibacterial soap before self-cathing, regardless of where they are when they catheterize. You should always be prepared for the worst case scenario. In the instance they don’t have access to soap or clean water, pack hand sanitizer and sterile gloves for them. Teaching your child proper hygiene and providing them with the necessary tools will help keep them safe from UTIs and other complications while self-catheterizing.

3. Always Pack a Catheterization Kit

Catheterization kits make it easy for your child to self-catheterize on the go. These kits should be packed discreetly in unlabeled bags such as plain backpacks so your child doesn’t get embarrassed using them. Here’s a checklist for what you should include: 

– clean catheter(s), multiple depending on how long your child plans on taking part in the sport or activity 

– sterile gloves, to make sure your child is practicing sanitary intermittent catheterization 

– antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer, to ensure your child’s hands are clean when self-cathing

– lubricants, to help with inserting non-lubricated catheters

– plastic bags, to separately store clean catheters and used catheters, particularly if there isn’t a suitable place to dispose of the used catheters

– container, in case there isn’t access to a toilet or other place to drain their urine

– wash cloth or disposable towelette, to clean their genitalia or entry site before catheterization

3. Prepare for Emergencies

No matter how much you prepare your child for self-cathing, they are bound to make mistakes and run into trouble sometimes. That’s life. Teach them how to identify urinary tract infections and other complications early on so they know when they need help. Make sure they know how to contact your or a family member in case of emergency so they can feel comfortable while playing sports and taking part in other fun activities with kids their own age. 

How to Find the Right Catheter for Your Child

Finding the right catheter for your child will make a huge difference when it comes to how active of a lifestyle they live. The more comfortable the catheter, the more likely your child will feel ready to take part in sports and other activities with their peers. Make sure to consult your child’s doctor or a child life specialist before you decide on the type of catheter your child needs.

Better Health carries a selection of intermittent catheters that can be reimbursed through insurance. To find the right type of catheter for your child, you can take our product quiz or check out our online catheter guides and intermittent catheter selection.

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