One topic new patients usually have a few concerns about is how to go about bathing with a colostomy. Will water and heat hurt my appliances? Is it okay for my stoma to get wet? Can I bathe or shower with my pouch on? What is the proper way to dry everything? These are just some of the common questions that patients have once they get home after their surgery. Keeping clean is important and the best way to deal with staying clean with an ostomy is to develop some sort of routine. Below are some tips that should hopefully make this task a little easier and worry free.
Showering and Bathing with a Colostomy Pouch
Generally, your routine shower shouldn’t interfere with how the pouching system adheres to your body, and its secure adhesion to your skin. In fact, there are cases where the heat and steam from bathing can sometimes improve its adhesion, especially in the first few days of its application. Those who have a habit of lingering longer in hot baths may end up with the wear-time of the pouching system lasting shorter than expected. This is why there is no set wear-time for the pouching system. It depends on your frequency of bathing and the number of times you change pouches.
Drying the pouching system generally depends on the type of appliance you use. You can use a towel to dry the non-tape bordered flanges and the non-covered pouches. In case of tape borders and covered pouches, it’s better to dry them using the cool setting on a hair dryer. It’s important you use the cool and not hot setting as prolonged exposures to hot hair dryers can melt or distort the pouch.
Some people prefer removing the pouch before bathing, while leaving the flange and stoma exposed. However this method may have some drawbacks as it can lead to a premature washout or melting of the flange or barrier and increase the need of frequent changing of the appliance. It may be better to leave the system intact to preserve the barrier.
In case you have a cloth-covered pouch, it’s better to use a stoma cap or non-covered pouch while bathing. It cuts down the time you need to dry your pouch later on.
You could try using a copolymer wipe like ConvaTec’s AllKare on the outside of the paper tape border flange as it helps in keeping the tape dry. However you may need to keep on applying it every time you have a shower.
Some patients prefer bathing on their scheduled ‘change-day’ where they remove the appliance before bathing and leave the stoma exposed. If you plan to bathe like this, it is a good idea to avoid pointing a direct stream of water on the stoma if the water pressure being used is high.
Avoid using oil based soaps, bath foams, shower gels and any moisturizing lotions as you may find it difficult rinsing them off the skin which my interfere with how appliances adhere to the skin around the stoma. Make sure your skin is completely dry after showering, and before applying your new appliance.
If using a one-piece appliance, the same suggestions mentioned above can be used, like towel drying and using polymer tapes on tape borders while bathing. However if you use a closed-end, one-piece appliance, it’s better to remove the pouch before bathing and take heed about the type soaps you use while bathing, or leave the pouch on while bathing and then doing your routine change when you finish.
Other Bathing Tips
There are some unique ideas you could try to keep your appliance dry like shower aprons or plastic pouch covers which protect the appliance and keep it free from water. If you have minimal abdominal hair, you could try applying a large piece of Glad Kitchen Press’n Seal over the appliance, for short term protection from water. However as visible abdominal hair can affect the product’s attachment to the skin; it may not be feasible for everyone. The aprons, plastic wrap and covers work only while showering and not while bathing. This can be an optional step for regular bathing. It is not advised to add extra waterproof tape on the flange borders as it can lead to skin irritation with prolonged use.
In case you have a belt supporting your appliance, it’s better to have two belts so that you can wear one while bathing and have a dry one to wear after bathing. As the belt dries overnight, the process can be repeated every day.
Staying fresh and clean with a stoma is extremely manageable. Like with other aspects of life after colostomy surgery, some alterations to normal activities may have to be made. With some trial and error, a bath or shower routine can be developed in very little time.