How to Care for Your Stoma After an Ostomy

Updated on December 30, 2016
AloBeDa profile image

Adjusting to a colostomy is tough—for me it was like a horrible dream. But with a positive mindset, I adjusted wonderfully.

The days that follow your colostomy procedure can be confusing and challenging. There is so much to learn about your new condition. One very important lesson to learn is how to take proper care of the stoma.

As a colostomy patient, you need to know the importance of taking care of your stoma—that little pink, cherry-like 'button' that’s your connection between your intestine and the outside. The stoma serves as the opening through which waste is expelled.

You'll need to familiarize yourself with the simple tasks associated with stoma care, and you need to ensure that the stoma and its surrounding area (the 'pancake') is kept clean AT ALL TIMES.

Before I proceed, let me quickly mention that there are 3 types of stomas. They are either temporary or permanent, depending on the reasons for your surgery:

  1. Colostomy stoma
  2. Ileostomy stoma
  3. Urostomy stoma

The colostomy stoma is usually on the left side of the abdomen and is an outlet for solid harder feces. The ileostomy opening is for softer feces. The urostomy is a conduit for passing out urine. All three are located in the abdomen.

Colostomy and ileostomy surgery may be temporary (reversible) or permanent (irreversible). A urostomy is always a permanent procedure.

And because the stoma has no nerve endings or pain sensors, if it comes in contact with very hot water whilst showering or bathing, for example, you won’t feel any pain but that's bad for your stoma.

So . . .

  • Treat your stoma with care
  • Avoid bruising it at all costs
  • Avoid very hot water

How to Clean Your Stoma

Because the stoma acts as an opening through which human waste (feces and urine) is expelled, it requires gentle cleaning every so often. In actual fact, it’s best to clean it every time you change your ostomy bag.

The beginner ostomy bag user may find cleaning the stoma a bit of a challenge initially, but cleaning around the stoma is no hard task.

And if you are a mother caring for your young child, or a caregiver taking care of a spouse or an elderly relation with challenges, the patient's stoma nurse will teach you everything you need to know: how to use ostomy supplies, how to deal with/watch out for ostomy-associated mishaps, how to be encouraging to the patient by lifting their spirits if need be, and how to generally take care of a stoma.

The following are must-haves, supplies that you need to stockpile... Okay, maybe not stockpile, but possess at all times for your stoma care.

First, I must mention that the basic requirement you’ll need for cleaning is lukewarm water.

A Stoma
A Stoma

Necessary Ostomy Supplies

Ostomy bags – This, of course, is essential and comes first. When you've had the procedure, as soon as you come round after surgery, you’ll find that the bag is already fixed in place.

Wipes - You'll always need these. A lot! Every time you change your bag, you will use wipes to clean around the stoma. If leaks occur (they don’t happen often, but they do occur), you need wipes. Ensure you dampen with clean warm water before wiping gently around the stoma. Check for caked waste in the case of a colostomy stoma. Clean the 'pancake' area with mild soap.

The wipes are dry and serve as washcloths, but they should NOT be reused.

Ostomates must avoid using any form of paper towel or tissues to clean the stoma. They leave little bits of tissue stuck on the moist stoma.

Soap - Mild, non-perfumed soap is best to cleanse the stoma and the surrounding area if it is visibly soiled, or if bits of feces is caked around the perimeter. It's best to purchase your soap with your ostomy supplies and not use just any available bath soap you may have at home. If you have to, check the ingredients in the soap before use.

Avoid harsh skin cleansers that include alcohol because they will irritate your stoma and the skin around it.

Deodorant - You want to have a canister of this as well. While changing or emptying your ostomy pouch, you may want to spray a bit of this.

What I do is spray a couple of spurts around my abdomen before opening to empty or changing. Then after completing whichever it is that I'm doing, l spray just a bit around the bathroom. This takes care of lingering odor, especially if it’s a public toilet, like when you visit the mall or go to a restaurant!

Faceplate hole - This is of particular importance when caring for the stoma. It's the cut-out hole in the adhesive faceplate of the ostomy bag. The hole is meant to fit fairly snug around the stoma but many Ostomates cut this opening too small.

Holes cut out too small squeeze the stoma and this, in turn, causes bruising and slight bleeding. This will certainly trigger an infection if care is not taken.

On the other hand, if the hole you cut out is wider than the stoma, the surrounding skin will become exposed to clumps of human waste. This will cause irritation and/or become infected.

Ostomy bag change - Excessive changing of ostomy bags, and pulling, tugging or yanking the faceplate off the skin, may pull out the fine hairs of the abdomen, especially if you are hairy. This constant pull and tug will cause skin irritation for some. If you have a hairy abdomen, it is advisable to shave the area occasionally.

Shower protector - If you prefer to shower with your pouch off, it's good to consider using a stoma shower protector. This will protect your stoma from perfumed shower gels or bubble bath soaps. Also, for instance, if your stoma is emptying a bit whilst showering, it keeps waste from leaking into your body or into the shower tub.

What You Should Know About Your Stoma

Though your stoma may look raw, moist, and sensitive, it has no sensory nerves; it is devoid of nerve endings. But it can bleed easily if it is accidentally bruised, scratched, or pinched.

And even though the slight bleeding is no cause to get alarmed, if this does happen, ensure that you clean it gently but thoroughly with your wipes so as to guard against infection. Remember, your waste passes out through this opening, so it's good to take care not to bruise your stoma in any way.

Stoma Care Recap

  • Gently but thoroughly clean the stoma perimeter
  • Clean the skin around the stoma - the pancake area where the faceplate is stuck on
  • If you have to shower with your ostomy bag off, use a shower guard.
  • If you experience any leakage onto your skin, wipe it off and clean thoroughly. Remember that leakage of feces onto the skin will cause irritation and is harmful to the stoma.
  • You must ensure that you have ample supplies at all times. It would be inconceivable to run out of supplies suddenly. You won’t like the consequences!

After the Ostomy...

Once you start to get the hang of it, managing an ostomy is simple, and taking care of a stoma is not complicated,

Take gentle exercises, like walking. This is good for you. And whenever you feel ready, you can gradually increase your activities, which will in turn improve circulation.

And when you become more comfortable with your condition, you must resume normal daily activities and start living your life once again.

© 2010 Alobeda

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    • AloBeDa profile image

      Alobeda 6 years ago from The Global Village

      You are so right Alegro, and the colostomy acceptance rate is now much better than it used to be in the not too distant past.

      Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      AlegroMedical 6 years ago

      With advancements in medical supplies, it is becoming easier for ostomy patients to recover. Take the time to get the right products for you, it will save you time and energy later on!