Caring for a colostomy is a significant change for most people that have just gone through surgery. A newly created opening outside your abdomen where stool and gas can exit the body is a major shift in what once was a regular routine. The piece of intestine brought to this opening is called a stoma and may appear red, swollen, and moist at first. Since there are no nerve endings on a stoma, no pain or pressure is experienced as your stoma reduces in size over the coming weeks.
Caring for a colostomy is a critical part of treatment and safety following surgery. Managing the changes a colostomy brings to your life will take time. However, most people properly caring for a colostomy learn that they can still enjoy many activities just as before their surgery. We have five tips for caring for a colostomy that may help you continue to live a full, comfortable, and active life.
Tip #2: Emptying your ostomy pouch regularly
Caring for a colostomy includes emptying your ostomy pouch routinely to prevent stool buildup, leaks, and irritated skin around the stoma. Depending on your output, a colostomy pouch should be emptied 4 to 5 times daily. A colostomy pouch that is left to become full can cause the pouch to get heavy, pull on the skin barrier, loosen the seal, and cause leakage.
Tip #1: Choosing a properly fitting ostomy pouching system
After surgery, your ostomy care nurse should help you find the best ostomy pouching system for your stoma. Caring for a colostomy includes choosing a properly fitting ostomy pouching system that can be a one-piece system where the pouch is attached to the skin barrier or a two-piece system in which the pouch can be detached from the barrier. Your stoma will change size over the course of healing, so your pouching system sizes will need to adjust accordingly. A properly fitting ostomy system will help prevent possible stool leaks.
Tip #3: Changing your ostomy pouching system routinely
Just as important as emptying your ostomy pouch, changing the entire ostomy pouching system routinely is essential when caring for a colostomy. The best time for a routine pouching system change is in the morning before you have anything to eat or drink. Your stoma will be less active at this time of day.
A small and convenient ostomy accessory that can help contain any output as you change out your ostomy pouching system is the StomaGenie Capture Cartridge. This unique accessory is compatible with one-piece and two-piece ostomy systems and helps keep the skin around the stoma and clothing protected as you change out your ostomy pouch and skin barrier. Available in twelve sizes, there is sure to be a StomaGenie Capture Cartridge that fits your stoma.
Tip #4: Caring for your peristomal skin
The sensitive skin around the stoma is called peristomal skin. When caring for a colostomy, it is important to take special care of the peristomal skin. Treatment should be immediate if the peristomal skin becomes red, itchy, or irritated. Cleaning this area with fragrance-free, warm, soapy water or alcohol-free wipes should be all that is needed. However, if you experience broken skin, rash, or bleeding, you should immediately reach out to your ostomy nurse.
You might benefit from using a stoma powder or protective barrier spray. These ostomy accessories can help create a protective layer that helps reduce the risk of skin damage and irritation caused by adhesives and stool leaks.
Tip #5: Take control of odors
An ostomy pouching system that properly fits will not allow any air to escape, so odors should not be noticeable. If you do notice odors outside of changing your ostomy pouching system, it is a sign that you have a leak that needs to be addressed. After ensuring your pouching system has a secure fit, consider the following tips to control odors:
Use an odor eliminator or ostomy deodorant
Several products in the market today help control or eliminate odors when caring for a colostomy. Drops, sprays, and gel sachets are available to remove unpleasant smells or even stop them before they can start. ESENTA Lubricating Deodorant Spray coats the inside of any ostomy pouch as it helps keep a secure seal around the stoma by preventing stool buildup. M9 Odor Eliminator Apple Scented Spray works to eliminate odors from urine or feces instead of just masking them while leaving behind a pleasant scent.
Choose a pouch with a filter
When caring for a colostomy, choosing an ostomy pouch with an odor-reduction filter can be helpful. Many Convatec Esteem and Natura ostomy pouches feature this type of filter to deodorize and release gas. A filter also reduces clogging, keeping the pouch flat for improved discreetness. The Coloplast Filtrodor Pouch Filter is another option with a self-sealing foam center that adheres to any pouch to protect against odors.
Consider your diet
Foods like asparagus, broccoli, garlic, and fatty or processed foods may cause odor in your ostomy pouch. And some beverages like beer or other carbonated drinks can cause gas buildup while also making the pouch bulge. Monitor your body’s response to these foods and drinks to help control odors when caring for a colostomy.
These five tips are just a start and not meant to replace any instructions you receive from your doctor or ostomy nurse. Adjusting to life with an ostomy will take some time, and properly caring for a colostomy is essential to learning your new body and how to keep it healthy.
The more you learn about living with an ostomy can help lessen any fears. Support groups can be found on the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.’s Support Group Finder, which can connect you with others living with an ostomy.
We carry various ostomy products and supplies to help those caring for a colostomy. If you need assistance finding the ostomy supplies you need, our Product Experts are just a phone call away and ready to help.