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Photo credit: GWG Andrea AcostaPhoto of a blue portable pill container with six compartments for pills.

Photo credit: GWG Andrea Acosta

Photo of a blue portable pill container with six compartments for pills.

With autumn quickly approaching and an increasing number of schools and businesses opening in-person, you might find yourself on the go again. School, work, and day trips can be stressful with a chronic illness like IBD or a medical device. Preparation is key. We asked what Girls with Guts keep in their day bags and received many insightful answers. Keep reading to learn what you can keep in your bag to help you conquer the world with IBD/ an ostomy.

Public Bathroom Hacks

Let’s get a big problem out of the way first: public bathroom. School and workplace bathrooms are not necessarily the most luxurious places. They are known for their smells, lack of sanitation, and scratchy toilet paper. While most people do not spend much time in these rooms, many of us with IBD do. There is no need to worry! Your Girls with Guts sisters have some great tips for you. Many GWGs keep wet wipes and soft toilet paper in their bag. This saves you from using scratchy toilet paper that can irritate your skin. If you are in a flare or have ‘butt burn’ from a j-pouch, you might additionally want to pack a barrier cream.

Now, let’s deal with the smell because nothing exacerbates the discomfort of long bathroom trips quite like unidentifiable smells. Many respondents reported using small bottles of poopouri spray. This can be great to protect yourself from various bathroom ordors or spray if you are self-conscious. I used a fair share of air fresheners when I had a c-diff infection.

Hydration

Hydration can be another challenge for the IBD community. For this reason, many Girls with Guts carry water bottles and packets of DripDrop with them. Andrea always keeps an insulated water bottle in her bag so that it stays cold. This is a great tip for ‘picky drinkers’ like myself. Some Girls with Guts additionally bring safety snacks. Kate brings crackers as they are her go-to snack for nausea. Other Girls with Guts pack pretzels, hard candy, or granola bars. Find a snack that works for you and make sure that you have it in your back, desk, or fridge.

Medication on the Go

Pills and medication are another item often found in a Girl With Guts’ bag. Many respondents explained that they keep anti-nausea pills or anti-spasm tablets in their bags. This is a wonderful idea! Just make sure that you clear any over-the-counter medications with your doctor and understand how to use as-needed prescriptions. You should store any pills you have with you in a location that keeps them safe for your consumption and out of reach for children. If you have more than one pill in your bag, organize them so that you do not accidentally take the wrong one (brain fog is real, my friends!). Andrea has a portable pill container she purchased at the Container Store that she uses to organize the pills she needs on the go. It has multiple compartments so that she can keep different medications separate from each other.

Photo Credit: GWG Andrea AcostaPhoto of a blue cosmetic bag.

Photo Credit: GWG Andrea Acosta

Photo of a blue cosmetic bag.

Medical emergency card

Since flares can leave us sprinting for the nearest bathroom, it is helpful to have your ‘I Gotta Go’ card on you. You can use this card to discretely communicate your urgent need to use a restroom in public. In some states, businesses are required to give you access to employee-only bathrooms if you have a medical condition such as IBD/ an ostomy (Learn more about The Restroom Access Act and your state’s laws).

Emergency Supplies

Of course, no matter how fast we can run, we do not always make it to the restroom in time. Accidents are an unfortunate reality for many in the IBD community. Preparation can make these moments easier. Many Girls with Guts keep a change of underwear and pants in their bag or car. Claire also has a plastic bag with her change of clothes. This is a great idea for cleaning up any spoiled clothes.

Another Girl With Guts made an excellent suggestion about having vomit bags on hand. She uses the stiff ring ones with the plastic bags that they have at hospitals. They can easily fit in pockets, so that you can pull them out at a moment’s notice. Some vomit bags even have liquid measurements so that you know how much volume you need to replace. I should have been carrying these bags with me for years. I have had too many work/ school vomiting spells to count! There is nothing quite like puking in front of a whole class of high schoolers on your first day as a substitute teacher!

Ostomies and setons

There are also important supplies that are more specific for ostomates. Many Girls with Guts keep a butt basket on them, containing extra bags and changing supplies. It is wise to have two extra bags in case something goes wrong with the first change. I learned that the hard way when I had an ostomy!

Brit has a fistula with a seton which can get messy. She always has a travel Peri Bottle in her “go Bag” so that she can give her fistula a quick rinse. She also brings a ‘booty pillow’ gel cushion with her so that she can sit more comfortably.

Concluding Points

Leading a busy life with IBD can be a challenge, but preparation can help. If you do not already have a “go bag,” you can make one easily. Find an old cosmetic ab, lunch bag, or pencil case and fill it with the key items you need to thrive!

 

• About The Author
Kate Shannon holds an MA in American Studies and a BA in History and American Studies. She is currently working as a high school special education teaching assistant while taking classes towards an MS in Student Disability Services in Higher Education. When she is not working, Kate loves reading, visiting history museums, practicing the clarinet (a new hobby she picked up after her diagnosis), volunteering with children and animals, and doing yoga. Kate was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2018 and had her colon removed in 2019. She is a j-pouch patient who is extremely grateful for the new life her surgeries gave her.
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