It is easy to assume when an ostomy is concerned that it is a messy, dirty situation for those involved! Unless you are not getting on with your ostomy appliance, that simply shouldn’t be the case at all (apart from a leak of course). Keeping your ostomy clean is not only best for you practically whilst you carry on with your day to day life, but as important as your daily hygiene. Your ostomy should be kept clean just as the rest of your body. Put simply, your ostomy is your anus that’s had a visit from Phil and Kirsty and relocated up north!
What not to use
Let's start with what not to use. Baby wipes, cleansers and soap are not recommended due to residue that can be left on the skin compromising the adhesion of the ostomy appliance. Typically it is recommended to start the cleaning regime with water and paper towels. I find dry wipes and gauze more effective as they don’t break down and absorb more water for a good clean. It's very satisfying when your peristomal skin is behaving itself and you give it a good clean and see your skin looking healthy and glowing.
Our skin makes up 15% of our bodies being the largest organ, renewing itself every 28 days. Ask yourself, do you take as much care for your skin on your whole body as you do your face? Makes you think, doesn’t it?
The importance of healthy parastomal skin
With the main issue that ostomates face being leaks it is no wonder that a good cleaning routine is so important. It can contribute to the health of your peristomal skin and leave you feeling very uncomfortable, sore and itchy if not cleaned properly. Adhesive removal sprays/wipes are commonly used when changing an appliance if it proves difficult. Your appliance may be stuck still despite needing a change or a leak from the centre, making it necessary to apply a remover to the edges to ease its removal. This also aids in removing any remaining sticky residue which some appliances can leave behind.
Using warm water as opposed to room temperature is also helpful in this situation, but understandably if you are not able to obtain any where you need to change your appliance, not being warm isn’t going to do you any harm, it may just take a little longer. My routine for changing my appliance follows a bath or shower every evening. I keep my bag on during, and change it after so I have ticked all the personal hygiene boxes all at once.
Before putting your new ostomy appliance on, many ostomates use barrier rings/sprays/wipes for an added layer of protection. It is important to ensure the skin is completely dry following this step to aid in the adhering to the skin of your appliance. Thrush is something that children with stomas can experience more frequently than adults which requires cream as treatment.
If you see a change in your skin, are experiencing itching, discomfort or pain, contact your stoma nurse as soon as possible. I make sure to take photos and send an email as documentation to support this. Until an issue is resolved I will take photos everyday to monitor if there is improvement or not. If not then your stoma nurse can clearly see this and take action more quickly. Ask your stoma nurse for their email address if they use one. I find emailing is a much quicker form of communication than trying to catch them on the phone and having to leave lots of messages.
Bleeding from your stoma
Being a live, active organ, your stoma can bleed during the cleaning process, and equally turn a whiter colour in places if your ostomy appliance is rubbing and too close to it. Again, if you are concerned, take photos and send them, and visit your stoma nurse for advice.
Slight blood when caught during cleaning is common however and nothing you should worry about. If your peristomal skin is sore going as far as the outer edge of your appliance then you may be advised to try a different brand of ostomy appliance. I was using the same appliance for my son from 5 days old for a few years, then his skin decided it wasn’t going to play ball anymore! His stoma nurse said it is common and we found an alternative.
Dealing with ostomy odourIf odour is something that bothers you, odour neutralising solutions are available but not likely to be acquired through prescriptions as deemed not necessary. Options for this take form in drops, capsules and sprays that can be added to your pouch. Examples of this include the Respond REFRESH 3 in 1 spray which as well as being a barrier spray and adhesive remover, has a fresh linen spray to make ostomy changes more refreshing. The company’s Care Range also has Neutralise Drops available in Gardenia with Jasmine, Tangerine and Mint scents. Designed to eliminate pouch odour, 1 to 2 drops is all you need and they come in a 50ml bottle which is perfect for keeping in your bag, out and about.
Until next time, Rach x
Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our blogger, Rachel's, experience of living with an ostomy & Hirschsprung's Disease & from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.
Other reads by Rachel
- How long should an ostomy bag stay on?
- My 2nd Stomaversary: What lessons have I learned?
- How does accessibility impact people?
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