How to Avoid Embarrassing Social Situations When You Have Crohn's Disease

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If you have Crohn’s disease, you know that symptoms sometimes flare up. You may fear these problems occurring in public. But don’t let worry keep you from being social and doing the things you enjoy. Here are some ways to manage difficult situations so you can focus on what’s important—living your life.

Be Prepared

Crohn’s disease can cause inconvenient urges to defecate, which can be awkward to manage in public. You may worry about having an “accident” if you leave the house.

Here’s how to gain some peace of mind: When you head out for work, errands, or other activities, pack an extra set of underwear and pants. Also, keep baby wipes, toilet paper, panty liners, and deodorizer with you, just in case. Knowing your supplies are there can help ease your anxiety.

Plan Your Trip

Going out in public can be difficult because it means you’re giving up some control of your environment. If possible, try to plan your outing when your symptoms are least likely to act up. For example, you may want to avoid trips right after meals if your symptoms are worse after you eat.

When you get to your destination, make a quick check to find out where the bathrooms are. Do this whenever you enter a new store, restaurant, sports stadium, or public place.

If you often go places that don’t have a public restroom, consider getting a “Can’t Wait” card, which is available to members of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. This can help you gain access to any available bathroom, such as the staff toilet in a store.

Give Gas and Other Symptoms the Boot

If you’re worried about gas when you’re out and about, make sure your diet is on your side. Try to avoid greasy foods and carbonated beverages, which can cause gassiness. Take your time to enjoy small bites and conversation—don't gulp your meal.

And remember, having Crohn’s disease is no reason to skip parties or turn down invitations. However, you should watch your intake of alcohol, which can make your symptoms worse.

Ask for Help

You may find that telling your school or your employer’s human resources department about your disease is helpful. For example, they may be able to offer you special accommodations, such as an office close to the bathroom, that may help reduce your anxiety.

Stay Connected to People You Trust

When you have Crohn’s disease, having a friend who understands your situation can be a big relief. Keep this person on your speed dial, so they can assist you if you get caught in an uncomfortable situation. A good friend who understands your disease also won’t be upset if you need to cancel a social date because your symptoms are acting up.

Lean on friends, too, when you’re feeling lousy and you need an extra hand. Your loved ones can help you with picking up the kids, shopping, or other errands when you aren’t able to leave the house.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 27

  1. C.A. Karwowski et al. Strategies to Improve Quality of Life in Adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. November 2009, vol. 15, no. 11, pp. 1755−64.

  2. Living with Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

  3. Managing Flares and Other IBD Symptoms. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, June 2009; Chron's and Colitis Foundation of America.

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