Weeing in the cold


In Brussels this time last year, the water supply to a famous statue of a little boy peeing  - the Mannekin Pis – was turned off due to sub-zero temperatures, much to the consternation of the assembled tourists. For most of us, however, the reality is somewhat different and we seem to wee more when the temperature dips, rather than find that our flow dries up.  Is this just our imagination or is there something going on inside our bodies?

The medical term for this is ‘cold diuresis’. What actually happens is that the small blood vessels near the surface of our skin close up slightly in order to conserve heat within our body where it is needed most.  This raises our blood pressure a little and the kidneys, which are very sensitive to changes in pressure, begin to work harder.  The result is that your bladder fills more quickly and you need to wee more often.  As soon as we come into a warm room, our small blood vessels open up and our kidneys can settle down again.

The best advice is to dress warmly when the ice and snow strike. Wearing more layers and ensuring that you have a hat and gloves on as well as thick socks will help to keep your little blood vessels open and keep the pressure off your kidneys.

However, there are other reasons why you might find your bladder problems becoming more noticeable during the winter months.

If we are cold then we tend to drink more hot drinks. If these drinks are coffee, tea or hot chocolate, then the caffeine they contain can irritate our bladder and make us need to wee more often.  Read our article on ‘Drinking to keep your bladder healthy’ to learn how what you drink can affect how active your bladder is.

When the roads and pavements are icy or snowy then you may find that even small slips or slides make you leak. This happens because when you suddenly slip, all of the muscles in your body tighten up to try to prevent you falling. If your pelvic floor muscles can’t react quickly enough, the activity in your tummy muscles squeezes your bladder and wee escapes. Walking downhill makes leaking worse anyway and if you are also tense and scared of falling while walking downhill, this can make it very difficult for your pelvic floor to keep you dry. Using the Educator can help you to increase the speed and strength of these fast acting or ‘fast twitch’muscle  fibres in your pelvic floor and give you more power to withstand sudden slips or falls. The Peritone can also help you to strengthen both the slow twitch fibres (the ones that help to prevent prolapse and keep your pelvic floor active throughout the day) and the fast twitch fibres that will save you embarrassment if you slip. Wearing boots or shoes with a thick tread or putting on some rubber grips will help prevent slips and slides on the ice in the meantime.

During the winter months, we also suffer from more coughs and colds. Repeated bouts of coughing and sneezing can make your pelvic floor problems worse for a short period. This is because of the strain placed on the pelvic floor when you cough or sneeze. Trying to tighten your pelvic floor muscles when you first experience that first tickle or irritation in your throat can help. If you avoid bending forwards or doubling over when you cough, this also makes it easier to tighten the pelvic floor and control your bladder.  Rest assured that once you are over your cough, you will be able to get your pelvic floor back to what it was.

By Alison Bourne MA (Cantab) BSc MCSP ACPWH

2 thoughts on “Weeing in the cold

  1. I have moderate asthma & usually have a cough from Oct -April, this year alone I’ve had three courses of prednisolone. This means that often I’m actually on the loo coughing mid-wee which is extremely painful & I have what feels like dribbles of wee for hours afterward. It’s upsetting & my gp tends to go with the standby of lose weight, its probably too much coffee or it’ll go away once you’re over this virus/cold.

  2. Hello Bex, this sounds more like a structural weakness (possibly brought on by your repeated bouts of coughing) rather than drinking too much coffee. I suggest that you begin by performing regular pelvic floor exercises to try to gain more support of your bladder. If your muscles are very weak then you may need to use a device such as the Peritone; a physiotherapist will be able to assess you and tell you if you need this level of help. If the coughing is very painful while you are on the loo, you could try supporting the area from your bottom up to your urethra (where you wee from) as a lot of downward movement due to lack of support can cause this problem. Asking your GP to refer you to a respiratory physiotherapist may also help as they will be able to show you how to clear your chest without using strong coughing and will also be able to help you with breathing exercises. Do let us know how you get on.
    Best wishes, Alison

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