Treatments and tests

General hygiene tips for your catheter

It is important to maintain a good standard of hygiene to reduce the risk of infection.

The following tips on hygiene may help you keep your catheter working properly. If you have any problems, ask your doctor or nurse for advice.

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling your catheter.
  • Wash the visible part of the catheter and the area where it enters your body with warm soapy water once daily during your shower.
  • Men – you may notice a slight discharge around your catheter where it enters your penis. In most cases this is a normal bodily discharge from the urethra (the channel you urinate down). Gently clean this off when you wash.
  • Avoid scented soap, perfume, talcum powder, antiperspirants, bubble bath, bath salts or creams/lotions in this area.
  • Women should always wash from front to back, particularly after a bowel movement.
  • It is better to have a shower than a bath. Leave your bag or valve attached to the catheter while showering.
  • If you have a leg bag, it must be kept below the level of your bladder at all times.
  • Sometimes you may get urine leaking down the urethra. This is nothing to worry about but contact your doctor or nurse to get further advice.

Men with catheters must ensure they wash under the foreskin:

  • If you are not circumcised, pull back your foreskin and clean the area underneath to avoid a smegma ring forming which can cause irritation and soreness.
  • Remember to return your foreskin to its normal position afterwards. If you don’t, you may develop a painful swelling called para-phimosis. If this should occur, seek medical advice immediately.
  • If you can’t pull your foreskin back because it is too tight (phimosis) don’t try – you may injure yourself. Tell your nurse who will instruct you how to clean underneath your foreskin using a syringe filled with cool tap water.

Reusing catheters

Manufacturers of catheters place restrictions on how often you can use them.

Some catheters are single use only while others may be reused. The Department of Health does not recommend the reuse of single-use catheters.

If you choose to reuse a catheter, the following information will be useful.

Cleaning regime

  • Immediately after use rinse the catheter under running water.
    If it is difficult at the time then take it home to clean.
  • Wash the catheter well using cooled, boiled water and a mild liquid soap.
  • Rinse well with cooled, boiled water to remove all traces of soap.
  • Flick the catheter dry. Avoid touching the end which goes into your urethra.

If you are reusing catheters

  • Have more than one catheter in use at a time, rotating their use.
  • Replace as per manufacturer’s guidelines – usually every 3 months, but you may need to do this more frequently if required.
  • Discard the catheter if the surface becomes rough or sticky.
  • Fill a water bottle every morning with cooled, boiled water to use for cleaning your catheters when you are out.
  • Always wash your hands prior to handling or cleaning the catheter.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • It is important to maintain a good standard of hygiene to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling your catheter

Acknowledgements

Royal Perth Hospital


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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