One of the top concerns for pre surgery is the thought of having a stoma bag and it smelling offensive to others. Lets keep it real here, the contents of anyone's bag and what comes out of your typical exit if you didn’t need an ostomy does most certainly not smell of roses!!!! Some press coverage of influential people have seen jokes made referring to bad smells meaning they must have an ostomy. It is narrow minded, offensive, and discriminating towards ostomates. Having a stoma is not a choice easily made, if it even is a choice in the first place when some wake up to find they have one through emergency surgeries, and up until then did not know what one was.
When should you expect a smell?
You should not notice a smell if your bag is closed. If your bag is functioning how it should, the gas produced and smell from the stool itself should be contained until you choose to empty it or when there is a dreaded leak! If you can smell something off then a little check in privacy to oversee the integrity of your bag will confirm if all is as it should be, or if a leak has begun and broken down the flange of your appliance causing the odour to leak out. If this happens try not to panic. People break wind, a lot of the time involuntarily! Just see it as that and do a bag change as you normally would. It will be over before you know it and you can enjoy the comfort of knowing it shouldn’t happen again anytime soon after a fresh change.
You should not expect the smell when emptying your bag to resemble that of your pre-stoma days in most cases. There will be a difference from having surgery and bowel removed. Many variables affect this including what you eat, drink and if you are unwell. You may have days where you do not notice much of a smell at all, and others where it is quite overwhelming, again because of the reasons just noted. Foods which typically make stools potent whether you have a stoma or not will still produce more of a smell including onions, garlic, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, fish, certain cheeses, eggs, baked beans, brussels sprouts, and alcohol. Foods that are known to aid in the reduction of odour include yoghurt, buttermilk and parsley. A high fibre diet if appropriate to your health care advice, drinking plenty of fluids and having a health wide ranging diet will help too.
What products are available to aid in eliminating odour?
There are some products available on the market to help eliminate the odour produced, some with a scent included to give you a more luxurious, comforting experience when used which is hard to come by post surgery as you navigate your new body and its new way of working.
These are a useful way of spraying away the odour and neutralising it which with the REFRESH 3 in 1 spray from Respond Healthcare is extremely user friendly coming in a handy 50ml and 150ml size. Perfect for one to stay at home and one to take on your travels it also acts as a barrier film and an adhesive remover. How on earth does it do all that? Its unique silicone formulation does the job combining the properties being alcohol and propellent-free, minimising any chilling and sting on the skin, making pouch changes more comfortable. As well as reducing the number of products needed, the innovative bag-in-can technology is completely recyclable therefore reducing environmental impact.
Dual action GLIDE from Respond Healthcare lubricates the inside of the pouch and actively destroys any odour at source. GLIDE contains active odour neutralisers, effectively eliminating any embarrassing smells being easy to use, killing odour in the pouch. It also helps prevent pancaking, reduces static, aids pouch emptying and reduces noise. Another dual purpose product which can bring many other additions to your stoma care needs.
Neutralising Absorbing Gel
ABSORB Odour Neutralising Absorbent Gel is a product resembling dishwasher tablets which I have shouted from the rooftops about since my little ostomate was little. It has many benefits with the most important here being to neutralise odour. Having an ileostomy that lost 4 litres a day as a toddler I found this product and started using it to help prevent leaks not realising it also had neutralising properties also. It is a fantastic innovative product and if you can get it on prescription then please do! I promise you, you won’t regret it! It is an expensive item that unless you have a watery high output you can not get on prescription, however it can be purchased and samples sent through the website found here.
This product was a fairly new one to me and following surgery is not often discussed. It isn’t something that is offered on prescription generally, deemed as a non essential item. Despite this, if odour causes you anxiety and you wish to try something to help I would definitely spend my money on trying this type of product first. I liken it to perfume for my little stoma friend, why shouldn’t it feel pampered! There are many options on the market by several ostomy companies from minty fresh scents to the more autumnal vibes of cinnamon and spices. Take some time to check out what different companies have to offer in terms of samples and see what takes your fancy. It feels quite a treat for me using such a product, but if financially possible, something that can bring great comfort and relief when putting some drops into your pouch.
Things to remember
Remember, everyone's poo smells! No one can say theirs doesn’t! The only difference is the exit it takes which should not mean you should be ridiculed for it should you experience such behaviour. It is bad manners and simply rude to comment on such a thing when an ostomate is adjusting to such a life changing thing. Know there are things you can do and reach out to the many wonderful advocates on socials to see what they do!
Until next time, Rach x
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