How to Prevent Skin Problems Related to Incontinence

Skin problems that arise from incontinence are a big problem. For caregivers, this is a cause for concern because it paves the way for infection and other injuries. Caregivers must prevent these consequences by being fully aware of how this problem starts and preventing further damage.

Skin irritation and breakage can result from prolonged contact with urine or stool. The areas usually affected are the buttocks, hips, perineal area, and genitals.

There are several factors at play here. Some substances in the urine are irritating, more so for stools. Moisture, warmth, the presence of microorganisms, and the continuous use of adult briefs are some of the other factors that also contribute to the destruction of the skin’s natural protective barrier.

Broken and infected skin can cause much discomfort. Caregivers like you can be one step ahead and avoid this pitfall by following the tips below:

1. Always keep the skin clean and dry.

It’s essentially preventing the factors mentioned above from coming together and making a disaster. It is the golden rule for the prevention of incontinence-related skin conditions.

a. Clean and dry the areas immediately after each urination and bowel movement. This task can be challenging for caregivers who have many things on their hands. What you can do is ask the patient to signal for assistance. Tell them to ring a call bell or put up a sign, such as a ribbon that you'd be able to see easily.

b. Use products that are non-irritating, like soap-free cleansers non-alcohol-based skin products. Soap- and alcohol-based products have ingredients that strip the skin of its natural oil. The frequent washing of the areas using these cleansers can irritate the skin.

c. When drying the areas, pat the skin instead of rub. The scratching motion when rubbing can cause fragile skin to break.

d. Change incontinence pads as soon as they are soiled. Incontinence pads have absorbent materials that lock in the moisture. They keep fluids from seeping through the patient's undergarments and clothes.

Although this is a good thing, it does come with downsides. The retained moisture in these pads soaks the skin and causes it to break. It is therefore important to change these pads at least six times a day.

e. Air-dry the areas for a few minutes if possible to completely dry the skin.

2. Use barrier creams or ointments that contain zinc oxide, lanolin, or petroleum jelly.

These products protect the skin against prolonged exposure to moisture. Always clean the areas first before reapplying creams or ointments.

3. Discourage the patient from sliding on the bed or chair as they move.

Fragile skin can easily break when treated this way. Ask the patient to lift their hips and provide support as they do so.

4. Provide the skin the nutrients it needs to strengthen and heal.

Ensure that the patient is eating a balanced diet. This way, you help restore the health of the patient’s skin.

5. Ensure proper circulation to the areas.

Lack of blood flow to affected parts means that the skin is not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients to be healthy. If a patient is bedridden, reposition them at least every two hours.

6. If a patient is undergoing radiation near the incontinence areas, be very gentle when cleaning the site.

Also, refer to the care plan to know which skin products you should avoid applying on the radiation site.

7. Report skin changes to the supervisor.

If skin irritation persists or if you note signs of early signs of skin breakdown, such as redness that does not turn pale when pressed. Physicians need to examine the patient for them to prescribe the right treatment.

Skin-related problems related to urine and bowel incontinence are highly preventable. You can do a lot for the patient by attending to their needs immediately. A patient without these complications reflects your ability as a caregiver.