A person runs to the bathroom as a thought bubble with a bladder inside has a warning light symbol.

Incontinence and Shortness of Breath

Last updated: July 2022

Have you noticed that anytime you get short of breath, it leads to an urgent need to use the washroom? First comes the inability to breathe, and if you don’t get it under control, along comes needing to run to the bathroom.

This loss of control is a highly uncomfortable feeling, and it is the ultimate betrayal.

The other night my husband and I were finishing dinner, and I took the last bite of my dinner roll with a big swig of water.

As they mixed in my mouth, it seemed to bottleneck and plug my throat. The bread seemed to expand and get more deeply lodged.

I could get no air in my throat, and no sound was coming out.

I was beginning to panic, so I had to concentrate on breathing through my nose along with controlling my thoughts.  This is when seconds feel like minutes and minutes seem like hours.

Not able to breathe and lack of self-control

Taking deep breaths wasn't helping and the seconds ticked by with no relief. Then, I suddenly felt the urge to use the washroom very badly.

As I was choking on my dinner, I could only think of the embarrassment of soiling myself or worse on the living room chair. The shorter my breath, the greater the urge became.

I was unable to move for fear I would lose all control. It would be impossible for me to have the strength and lung capacity to get up successfully without soiling myself.

It is the most helpless feeling ever.

I was on the edge of my chair when my husband looked at me. He immediately knew what was happening.

He grabbed my walker, actually picked me up, and put me down on the seat. We used my walker as a wheelchair, and he drove me down the hall to the washroom.

Once in the bathroom, as one problem was taken care of, he brought my BiPap to me to take care of my breathing. I used it until I could regulate my breath and was strong enough to go it alone once more.

Preparing for moments of incontinence

In hindsight, I should have had my husband put towels under me and released myself of the burden. Instead, I allowed my mind to race with two problems. How would I get my breath, and how would I get to the washroom?

It played a part that caused my shortness of breath to be exasperated. The anxiety that it caused was immeasurable.

In the future, and if these episodes become more frequent, I could consider some of the following:

  • Having incontinent pads or underwear for adults readily available
  • Practicing drills, much like we do fire drills. Knowing what you and your caregiver should do to make it easier for everyone.
  • Learning to meditate and fully practice mindfulness to help myself enhance and control my breath.

If this hasn’t happened to you, or you don’t know what I am talking about, you are among the very lucky.

What things do you do to avoid the embarrassment of incontinence?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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