Pads are the most popular product worn to protect against leaks. They can be disposable or washable and re-usable, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes for children, men and women.
Your health trust or authority may supply selected products through the continence service. If not, or if you prefer other brands, you will have to buy them. Buy a small quantity to start with until you are sure the pad suits you. Some local chemists stock a small range or will order specially. You can also buy via mail order. The quantity you will need will depend on whether you have a light, moderate or heavy urine loss, or soil yourself. Absorbency depends on the materials in the pad and not the size. Paying more does not guarantee better absorbency.
Pads have a surface layer worn next to the skin, usually made of a 'feel-dry' material, which allows urine to pass through to a soaker layer of absorbent materials. Most have a waterproof backing or underlayer to minimise leaks. Those without a waterproof backing can be used as an extra booster pad.
Some people mix and match their pads - for example choosing a smaller pad during the day and changing to a more absorbent pad at night; or using a disposable pad for short term use or when travelling, and a washable pad if needed for a longer time.
Disposable body-worn pads
Disposable body-worn pads are:
- cheaper to buy, but can be expensive over a long period
- often available in trial packs - sometimes free
- useful for short periods - when waiting for treatment or travelling
- available for men and women who have a light urinary loss, and some pads have an adhesive strip for easier positioning
- more absorbent for heavy urinary loss - and no bulkier if they contain superabsorber gel
- available with a wetness strip to show when they need changing - helpful to a carer who need not disturb the wearer
- recommended for both types of incontinence
- difficult to dispose of if you are away from home - this is especially so for men using public toilets
- should be thrown away after use, even if not wet - they deteriorate.
Disposable, rectangular, shaped and all-in-one pads, and a male pouch
Washable body-worn pads
Washable body-worn pads are:
- more expensive to buy, so mistakes can be costly
- available as part of ordinary-looking underwear for children, men and women
- less bulky to store than disposables. Store those with a waterproof backing with the absorbent layer outside so any moisture can evaporate
- not recommended for heavy urinary loss - even large bulky pads might still leak
- not recommended if you soil, because of staining
- best washed a couple of times before using them for the first time to soften the fibres. Their absorbency improves with washing
- re-usable without washing if they are not wet or soiled
- best placed in an airtight container or a bucket of cold water once used, until they can be washed
- not easy to wash by hand. You will need an automatic washing machine or access to a laundry which will follow the manufacturer's washing and drying instructions. If these are followed, many makes of washable pad are guaranteed to last 200 to 300 washes. Bleach or fabric softeners should be avoided as these can damage the absorbency quality of the fibres
- slow to dry - you will need at least seven to allow for washing and drying. Those with no waterproof layer dry quickest, and are likely to last longer
- not for you if you do not like the idea of washing wet or soiled pads.
Washable, rectangular, shaped and all-in-one pads, and a male pouch
Pants with a built-in pad for boys and girls
- The price and appearance of the pad does not always reflect the quality.
- Manufactures' claims about absorbency may be optimistic.
- You can, wear two or more pads or extra protection, but only the outer one should have a waterproof layer.
- Body-worn pads are best kept in position with snug fitting, ordinary pants. Net pants specially designed by the pad maker are available.
- Pads with no waterproof backing should be worn in pants with a waterproof pouch or gusset.
- Disposable pads with an adhesive strip are easy to keep in place, but are suitable only for a light loss.
- Wet or soiled pads are best changed regularly before they become saturated, to minimise leaks.
- Put used disposable pads in a plastic sandwich bag with a tie to exclude air, or in a scented nappy bag, and put them in the dustbin, not all pads can be burnt.
- Following the makers instructions helps to prevent leaks and makes the product last longer.
Underwear for boys and men
Y-front pants are available with a built-in pad or with a pouch to hold a separate disposable or washable pad. Most cost between £8 and £13 a pair. They are suitable for only a slight leak or dribble of urine or slight staining from the bowel.
Underwear for girls and women
Ordinary-looking pants are available in a range of styles, sizes and colours, and most cost between £6 and £12 a pair. Some are designed to hold a separate pad and others have a pad built into the gusset. A few are also available in drop front styles for people who have difficulty dressing or undressing.
pants for women
It's important to measure yourself before you buy
Drop front pants for women
Pants with a built-in pad absorb small quantities of urine. They can also be used for slight staining from the bowel.
Pouch pants have a waterproof gusset to hold a separate disposable or washable slim pad. The pouch may be on the inside or outside. The pads will absorb a light to moderate amount of urine. A booster pad can be used if necessary.
Stretch pants are available in a net-type material, for about £2, or in cotton fabric, for up to £10. They are designed to hold disposable or washable waterproof-backed pads.
Cup the pad between your legs
Pad kept in place with net pants
To minimise leaks:
- measure yourself before you buy - hips for women and waist for men and children.
- change before the pad becomes saturated.
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