Adjusting to a colostomy is tough. For me, it was like a horrible dream. But with a positive mindset, I soon adjusted to my new life.
When it comes to caring for your colostomy, stoma care and its management are very important; without proper care and strict adherence to your stoma nurse’s advice, your stoma may become infected—or, worse still, you might find yourself right back in the hospital.
If you're like me, after your surgical procedure, and when the effects of anesthesia finally wear off, you may express deep shock when you discover there is a bag attached to your abdomen. When your doctor explains what has happened and what that bag is, you may get even more alarmed. That feeling is expected.
What you find attached to your stomach is a colostomy bag. This bag (colostomy pouch) is undoubtedly the most important of all the colostomy supplies you will require. Without it, your waste collection is impossible.
If you already know about colostomies and know what to expect before you go in for your operation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. You and your doctor will certainly have had extensive discussions about it, and you will know what to expect.
However, if, like me, you had an emergency operation and ending up with a stoma was the furthermost thing you ever expected, the doctor will have a lot to explain about your current condition, how it came to be, and why care and management are important.
Soon after, you will get introduced to your stoma nurse (ET nurse), who will carefully tutor and show you what you need to know about your stoma care. He or she will show you all the colostomy supplies needed, tell you when to use them, and show you how to use each and every one of them.
With all this, the stoma nurse will give you gentle advice and counseling. You will find it all reassuring and helpful in no small measure.
Colostomy Supplies Required for Stoma Care
The first batch of my colostomy supplies was given to me free at the hospital, and they lasted about eight weeks. I’m not sure if this applies to all hospitals, though. My colostomy supplies were stored in a large pretty bag, every item in different compartments. I also got a mini-case that is used for storing stoma supplies you’ll need, for instance, on an evening out.
The stoma needs strict care and management, especially all around its perimeter and the stoma button itself. It must be kept very clean at all times to avoid infection of the area. It is very easy to get an infection in this area without proper care; patients have been known to return to the hospital for infection-related illnesses.
Must-have colostomy supplies for effective care and management are listed below. These are important and must-have supplies you will always need after your surgical procedure.
- Colostomy supplies storage bags and purses
- Colostomy bags
- Special washcloths
- Mild soap wash
- Stainless steel scissors
- Deodorant sprays
Storage Bags and Purses
These are bags or cases where you store the supplies you need for the day or week. They are used at home as storage or as a bag to fill your holiday supplies for when you go on vacation.
There are small and compact purses or bags that are great for the colostomy supplies you need when you go to the office, when you go out to an event, or for your weekend night-out supplies. They are nice and handy and ensure all your colostomy supplies are kept clean, organised, and easy to carry around.
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And while some are attractive and can pass as clutch bags, the good thing is that they can fit snugly into a woman's handbag or a man's briefcase.
Colostomy Bags (or Pouches)
Colostomy bags are by far the most important of all your stoma supplies and come in two variant systems, the 1-piece and 2-piece colostomy bags.
1-piece system: They consist of a collection bag with an adhesive plate which adheres to the abdomen and fits firmly around the stoma. The one-piece system uses two types of bags, disposable and re-useable colostomy bags. The disposable bags are close-ended and are discarded when filled with waste. The re-useable bags are open-ended and can be emptied when filled and re-used again.
2-piece systems: Consist of an adhesive faceplate and a faeces collection bag, separate entities that fit together to serve one purpose. The two pieces must be securely fitted together by means of a clipping or sealing system. The adhesive plate stays fixed on your stomach and doesn't have to be removed whenever a filled bag has to be emptied or changed.
Both the 1-piece and 2-piece stoma bag systems can come as close-ended or drainable.
Gloves are not very easy to use, and many patients find it makes their fingers feel clumsy when fixing or changing a colostomy bag. Most of us just use our bare hands and this is fine as long as the hands are washed before and after changing a bag. This is particularly important when it comes to caring for young children and babies that have a colostomy.
For instance, if a young patient gets smallpox or similar childhood ailments, its carer must ensure they wear gloves on when cleaning the stoma.
Special washcloths come with colostomy bag supplies and must be at hand always. Never use paper napkins or toilet paper to clean around the stoma as these may leave tiny pieces or particles of tissue which can stick onto the stoma without you being aware. If these accumulate around and, on the stoma, it will cause irritation, or worse, cause a bad infection.
Mild Soap Wash
A very mild non-perfumed soap or wash is required to clean a soiled stoma. If it is not cleaned regularly, a thin light 'cake' of waste will form around the stoma. It is important to clean the stoma every day, even if it’s just once in the morning, with a mild soap. Ensure there are no irritants that may cause minor irritation.
Water used must be warm because cold water may cause a reaction whereby the stoma shrinks, albeit temporarily and if this happens, it becomes a bit difficult and clumsy to firmly fit the stoma into the faceplate hole.
Creams may or may not come with your first set of supplies but it's good to use it for soothing the ring around the stoma if it gets irritated. There are special and recommended colostomy creams available and only these types of creams must be used for your stoma care.
Stainless Steel Scissors
Supplies provided at the hospital come with a small pair of ostomy scissors with curved blades. You will need these to cut a ring in the colostomy pouch faceplate. Because every patient has a different stoma diameter, some faceplates can be manually cut to size by the patient. It’s quite simple to do.
Faceplates have graded diameter measurements marked on them and once your stoma's diameter, you can cut to fit. Measurement charts come with supplies.
Whilst changing a pouch or emptying the contents of your bag, the odour can be quite overwhelming for anyone around, and even you. This is why ostomy deodorant sprays are a must-have.
There are special sprays and deodorizing tablets that will come with your colostomy supplies and these will take care of the odour. Some are more effective than others and you will eventually know which works best for you. Some come in natural fragrances, with lemon being an especial favourite.
10 Important Tips on Stoma Care
- Never use non-stoma care products.
- Only use products recommended for colostomy stoma care.
- Never use regular creams and body lotions around your stoma.
- Keep products such as lanolin-based creams away from the stoma.
- Oil-based creams will cause the colostomy bag to loosen from the abdomen and hamper the adherence of the faceplates to the stomach.
- Never clean the stoma or its surroundings with alcohol or alcohol-based products. Alcohol will dry up the skin around the stoma and irritate it.
- Never use hot water on the stoma. Because it has no nerve endings, you won't feel the pain of scalding water.
- Make sure your closed pouch is only half-full before you change it for a new stoma bag.
- A drainable bag must not be more than three-quarters full before you drain or empty it.
- Never go out without at least three spare colostomy bags. You never want to forget this.
Stoma Care Is Not Complicated
Managing and caring for your colostomy may sound complicated, but it is not. Once you get the hang of things, it will become a breeze. Once you have mastered attaching and removing your colostomy bags and know the basics of stoma care, make sure you are well-equipped with the necessary colostomy supplies.
This way, you will successfully manage your stoma and live your life without fear, embarrassment, or concern.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Alobeda
Your Views Are Welcome
Alobeda (author) from The Global Village on April 06, 2016:
I'm glad you found this helpful Gwen. Best wishes...