Living With an Ostomy

Frequently asked questions
Bathing and showering are common concerns following ostomy surgery. The good news is that you can bathe and shower the same way you used to. Bathing without your pouching system will not harm your stoma, nor will water enter your stoma. It is best to do this while your stoma is less active during the day. It would be best if you refrained from using moisturizing soaps or bath oils as they may prevent your ostomy from sticking to your skin. Some pouching systems are designed to dry quickly, but you can also pat your bag down afterwards or use a blow dryer (on low). If you wear a two-piece system, wearing the flange only while in the shower can compromise the seal.

Your ostomy should not stop you from enjoying swimming, hot tubs, snorkeling or diving!

Some people tape the edges of the flange or use flange extenders to prevent lifting or melting in the water. Blow drying may help re-adhere the edges of your flange (on low). If you’ve changed your flange before swimming, it’s a good idea to wait an hour before going in to make sure it has adhered properly. Ostomy pouch filters may lose functionality if they get wet, so some use a sticker or tape to cover them while in water. If you wear a wet suit for water sports, you should empty the appliance before suiting up. You may need to come back up to re-empty sooner than your diving companions. Remember that the great majority of ‘normal’ people have lumps, bumps and imperfections on their bodies, so it is unlikely anyone will notice your ostomy.

There is no way to stop your ostomy from expelling gas. Ileostomies and colostomies will emit gas, which may or may not be audible to others. Stoma noises often sound the same as a rumbling stomach. Since the sound is coming from the front of your body, people often assume it’s just your stomach if they notice any sound at all. Ambient noise or clothing makes most stoma noises inaudible, but consider cutting down on or eliminating gas-producing food or drink if this is embarrassing you.
Stomas will bleed if cleaned too roughly, if the appliance is improperly applied, or if you accidentally scratch them. This is normal and should stop soon if you dab the spots with tissue. Some stomas will bleed more easily than others, and certain medications (such as aspirin or blood thinners) can increase the likelihood of bleeding. Prolonged bleeding, increased amount of bleeding or very easy bleeding may indicate other problems and should be reported to your NSWOC and if bleeding is coming from the peristomal skin area, you should see your caregiver at once.
Just as people with an intact set of bowels can get constipated, so can you if you have a colostomy. As long as you feel well otherwise, periodic inactivity doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Drink grape or prune juice if things haven’t moved in 24 hours. Give your body a chance to sort itself out before resorting to laxatives, and if you do, take such products sparingly. Prolonged lack of output from an ileostomy or urostomy is not normal. It should be reported to your doctor or Ostomy Nurse immediately.
In most cases, yes! Make sure, if possible, to have your stoma site properly located by a NSWOC before surgery. It should be placed in a spot that won’t be irritated by the type of clothing you like to wear. While you are healing, you may want to wear garments with a loose waistband, such as track pants. Swelling in your abdomen after surgery will subside. In most cases, patients can return to the wardrobe they liked before surgery, and this can include form-fitting outfits. However, pants tight over the stoma can be problematic as they won’t let waste drop properly into the bag. Some stomas may have to be located higher than usual, depending on body type. If this is the case with you, you can opt to wear pants or skirts higher in the waist. Or, you can take the opposite approach and wear your clothing lower on the hips with a shirt worn out over the top. Men sometimes find suspenders to be an excellent addition to their wardrobe.
Your doctor will be the best judge of when you are fit enough to resume work. If your job involves heavy physical activity, you need to let your doctor know so they can recommend any changes in duties that may be necessary. In most cases, patients can resume employment without problems. However, it can take months to regain former strength and stamina, so you should discuss the possibility of shorter hours or part-time shifts with your employer for the first few weeks. It’s also best to explain that you may need to take more bathroom breaks than before.
Source: A Handbook for New Ostomy Patients. Used with permission from Debra Rooney, Vancouver Ostomy Chapter.


Ostomy Lifestyle
Yaser Nadeem

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Sign Petition

Ostomy Canada is petitioning the Ontario Government to: "Respect the ADP mandate to cover 75% of the average cost of ostomy supplies and would like your help by adding your name. Once we have a sufficient # of signatures, the petition will be brought to the Ontario Legislature by The NDP Health Critic.