Helpful Hints for Ostomates

Helpful hints for ostomates

Ostomy Appliances

Helpful hints for ostomates are necessary especially during the hot, humid summer months.  Summer time and wearing an ostomy appliance can be an interesting and frustrating situation.

Keeping the skin around the stoma healthy is important all of the time but can present some problems when it’s hot and you sweat.  The adhesive might break down sooner than usual and you might have to change more often. To extend the wear time of your appliance during the summer apply a skin prep and allow it to dry completely before putting on your appliance.

Should you experience skin problems during the summer, or any time, there could be several reasons.  You might develop a sensitivity to the tape or the appliance adhesive.  This can result in a rash under the tape or appliance.  If the rash is weeping you can apply stomahesive powder to the area before putting on the appliance.  Stomahesive powder has some healing properties as well as the ability to absorb the excess moisture.  Applying a thin coat of liquid Maalox and allowing it to dry will also help heal the rash.  Mainly, any way to keep that area dry is what you need to do. Often just wearing a cloth pouch cover will do the trick.

People with ileostomies are more apt to experience skin breakdown from digestive enzymes that people with colostomies or urinary diversions.  If you have a stoma that doesn’t protrude from the abdomen much try using an appliance that is convex in design.  The convexity will push the skin around the stoma down and allow more of the stoma to come through the opening in the appliance.  If you do get skin breakdown around the stoma you can use paste, barrier rings, or strips to help protect that tender skin.

If you discover little raised, red bumps under your skin barrier it could be a fungus or yeast infection.  Fungus or yeast often start when you have one of the above problems going on.  There are prescription medications available that will treat fungus or yeast infections very well.  There are also sprays and lotions available to help with the itching that comes with these infections but lotions and sprays can interfere with the wear time of your appliance so use caution.

Summertime foods like corn on the cob, salads, and baked beans can cause problems for colostomates and ileostomates.  Any food that contains lots of fiber can cause a blockage if not chewed good enough so chew, chew, and then chew some more.

Should you get a blockage you can often relieve it on your own.  You can drink hot liquids; coffee, and tea will get the gut moving.  While drinking the hot liquid lay or sit with a heating pad across the small of your back or your abdomen. Stand in a very warm shower with the water running on your lower back or set in a tub of very warm water.  If these things don’t work – assume the position.  Get down on your hands and knees; lower your head and shoulders to the floor and keep your butt in the air.  This position allows the gut to straighten out some and will often let the blockage pass.  Massaging your abdomen while doing any of these will help move the blockage along.  However; don’t mess with a blockage on your own for more than 30 – 60 minutes.  If you wait longer than that there is a danger if it becoming worse.  Call your doctor or go to an emergency room if you can’t break it loose on your own.  A skilled professional can give an enema to an ostomate…NEVER attempt this on your own, there’s too much danger of perforating your bowel and then you’re really in trouble.

More helpful hints for ostomates: If you like to swim there are a few tips to follow.  Don’t go immediately after putting on a new appliance.  Give the appliance some time to really stick to your skin.  Make sure the seal is secure and the pouch is empty before getting in the water.  You can picture frame your appliance with waterproof tape if it makes you feel more secure but it’s not necessary.  Be wary of getting a sunburn.  Besides not being good for your skin, a severe sunburn can result in vomiting and diarrhea which will deplete your electrolytes.  Cover your stoma area with an extra towel, hat, or magazine.

DRINK – and I don’t mean alcoholic beverages.  Especially during the summer you need lots of fluids.  Anything containing liquid counts towards the eight to ten 8 ounce glasses you need.  Water, Kool-Aid, milk, sports drinks, juice, or anything like them count towards the liquid you need to keep your electrolytes in balance.  If you drink too much plain water you can actually wash out the electrolytes you need so mix up your beverages and definitely include some sports drinks.

People with urinary diversions have the same problems as colostomates and ileostomates when it comes to keeping appliances on and storing their appliances.  Someone with a urostomy needs to be aware of the color and odor of their urine.  If the urine output decreases and the urine becomes dark then you need to increase your liquid intake.  Becoming dehydrated is a danger to urostomates and ileostomates especially.  If your urine output increases and smells strong you could have an infection.  This is especially true if you have a fever along with it.  Should this happen go see your doctor as soon as you can.

Summer often means vacations.  First, make sure you have twice the amount of appliances you usually use packed.  No matter how you travel keep at least one emergency appliance with you at all times.  The same holds true for your medications.  Keep a legible list of all of your medications and ostomy appliances with you at all times – I don’t care if it’s just going to the grocery store; keep it with you and keep it updated.  Ostomy appliances melt when they get too warm so don’t store them in a hot car when traveling or a hot closet at home.  If they’re in the car keep them in the air conditioning not the trunk.  Take them out when you stop for the night or reach your destination.

All ostomates need to be aware of how full their appliances are getting.  If you let it get more that 1/3 to 1/2 full or if gas makes the pouch feel like a football you run the danger of losing your appliance.  The extra pressure puts a strain on how the pouch attaches to the appliance and how the appliance sticks to your skin.

Be aware of how your ostomy responds to eating.  When you’re in a situation where you don’t have immediate access to a bathroom eat foods that don’t come through to your pouch rapidly.  This holds true for urostomates too.  It’s OK to adjust your fluid intake for a short period of time so you don’t run into a problem with a full pouch.

Ileostomates and colostomates shouldn’t skip eating before going out.  An empty stomach means more gas.  It’s said that if you cover a gassy stoma with your elbow you can muffle the noise.  Well, this isn’t always the case so don’t take the chance.  Have a small non-residual snack before attending a function where you won’t be eating until later than usual.

These helpful hints for ostomates are brought to you courtesy of my own experience and the experience of ostomates across the nation and around the world.  If you want more information on helpful hints for ostomates contact your local chapter of the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.  If you don’t know where your local chapter is located or you want to start a chapter in your area you can contact the UOAA at 800-826-0826, write to them at P.O. Box 512, Northfield, MN 55057, or look them up on line by following the link furnished in this article.

If you have an ostomy and would like to help others who are new ostomates along their way contact your local chapter about becoming an ostomy visitor.  Many areas have volunteers who visit with new ostomates or people looking at having ostomy surgery to acquaint them with life after surgery.  The biggest things people wonder are; if they will be able to do what they used to, eat what they used to and look like they used to in clothes. You can be the best example there is to someone going through this.  I had a visitor after my surgery and was a visitor for many years; it’s rewarding no matter which side you’re on.

Helpful Hints for Ostomates

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