Has anyone ever told you they ‘laughed so hard, they peed themselves a little?’. Normally this is a figure of speech but in some cases it can actually be literal. If you pee when you laugh, when you sneeze, or when you cough, this can be highly embarrassing, uncomfortable, inconvenient and actually a little worrying. But fear not: it’s not an uncommon problem and often there are things that can be done to treat the issue.
Let’s get to bottom of the problem and see what might be causing these little accidents…
What Is Giggle Incontinence?
If you pee when you laugh, cough or otherwise tense/exert yourself, then you may be suffering from a type of incontinence. In fact, there’s actually a term for this specific condition called ‘giggle incontinence’.
Giggle incontinence is the ‘involuntary’ release of urine during laughter and while this normally only leads to a small amount of urine being released, in more severe cases it can actually cause you to entirely empty your bladder. Giggle incontinence is particularly common in girls and especially during the onset of puberty or between the ages of 5-7. However, in rare cases this can persist into adulthood, or can come on later in life.
Giggle incontinence is itself a type of ‘stress incontinence’, which is usually associated with playing sports.
In most cases, giggle incontinence affects younger girls who will normally grow out of the condition. While it can be embarrassing for them socially in the meantime, helping them to deal with the problem by being aware of it and by learning to excuse themselves can help them cope. Using the restroom regularly can also be helpful, as can using sanitary towels or strategies such as tying jumpers around the waist.
Some studies suggest the use of the ADHD drug Ritalin can be effective in treating giggle incontinence (1). However, this is seen as an extreme and unfavourable approach by many families and it’s not generally advised unless the child is havening daily episodes and is finding them very traumatic. Side effects of Ritalin can include nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, elevated blood pressure, psychosis and rapid heart rate.
For those who are old enough to understand them, kegel exercises might be effective in treating incontinence. Kegel exercises target the pelvic floor muscles, which can be used in order to tighten the sphincter controlling flow.
One way to practice strengthening the kegel muscles is to try stopping urination mid flow and holding it for ten seconds before releasing it. When you do this, you should be able to feel the muscles used in the process, and you can then similarly practice tensing these subsequently throughout the day. Practice holding them for ten seconds at a time and try doing this for 10-20 repetitions.
This strategy can also be useful in treating other types of stress incontinence that may be triggered by sports, coughing or sneezing.