Caring for my stoma was challenging at first but within a short time, I got so good at it, it became a 'breeze' to manage my colostomy.
After an ostomy procedure and your discharge from the hospital, taking care of your stoma is a routine you’ll need to master because the nurses are no more there to give you a helping hand.
While I was in the hospital, my Stoma Nurse was always there to walk me through every detail of stoma care and management and with her kind and encouraging words, I was able to gain more confidence in myself and come to terms with my condition.
But every colostomy patient is different. While some will build up their confidence enough to easily take off from where the nurses left, it's not that easy for others.
The days that follow your colostomy procedure can be confusing and challenging and there seems to be so much to learn but one of the most important lessons you’ll need to know is how to take proper care of the stoma.
What is a Stoma?
Your stoma is the pink cherry-like soft tissue that connects your intestine with the outside. Sited on the abdomen, it is the opening through which waste matter is expelled.
There are three types of stomas located in different parts of the abdomen. They can be either a temporary stoma or a permanent one, but this depends on the reasons why you had to undergo an ostomy operation.
- Colostomy stoma - This is usually on the left side of the abdomen. It is an outlet for solid harder faecal waste.
- Ileostomy stoma - An ileostomy stoma opening is for softer, looser faecal waste.
- Urostomy stoma - This is a conduit for passing out urine.
Ileostomy and colostomy procedures are temporary (reversible) or permanent (irreversible) while a urostomy is a permanent procedure.
Stoma Care: How to Clean Your Stoma
The stoma acts as an opening through which human waste in form of faeces or urine is expelled and so, it requires constant but gentle cleaning. From experience, I found that cleaning my stoma every time I changed my colostomy bag helped me avoid infections and through the duration of my temporary colostomy, my stoma was never infected, even when I had bruising.
Because waste passes through this opening, you must try to guard against is bruising. It is easy to accidentally bruise your stoma through scratching around its perimeter, pinching it, scrubbing too hard with a sponge, or from face-plate holes that are cut too tight.
Though it may look raw, moist, and sensitive, a stoma has no sensory nerves. This means it is devoid of nerve endings and therefore insensitive to touch, pain, or excessively hot water.
Most of the time, the bleeding is usually slight and will stop. However, if you do have bad bruising that leads to bleeding, contact your doctor. That’s what I did. With my condition, he told me I had no reason to get alarmed as long as I keep it clean.
Cleaning around the stoma is not hard and the following ways will show you the methods I employed to keep my stoma clean and germs free:
- Wash your hands before cleaning your stoma.
- Gently clean the stoma with the wipes that come with your ostomy supplies.
- Clean the folds and crevices where bits of faeces or stale urine may be stuck.
- Clean the skin around the stoma. This is the pancake area where a colostomy bag's faceplate is attached.
- Use a fresh sheet of wipes for every step.
- If you experience any faecal leakage on your skin, wipe it off and clean thoroughly with dampened wipes.
- You can shower without your ostomy bag if you wish and give your stoma a gentle wash. However, expect some waste to be expelled while showering.
- Use lukewarm water in the absence of wipes. Because the stoma has no pain sensors, don’t use hot water, to avoid scalding.
- Carry out this stoma care routine a minimum of two times a day.
- Wash your hands after your stoma care process.
If you are a mother caring for a young child with an ostomy, or a caregiver taking care of an elderly person with challenges, the patient's Stoma Nurse will instruct you on everything you need to know, like how to care for a stoma, how to use appliances, how to deal with/watch out for ostomy-associated mishaps, and how to be encouraging to the patient by lifting their spirits.
Necessary Supplies You Need to Keep Your Stoma Clean
For proper stoma management, you must have these supplies in abundance, at all times.
Wipes: You will always need a lot of wipes because every time you change your stoma bag, you will need wipes to clean around the stoma. When leaks occur, you also need wipes. Before you use your wipes, ensure you dampen it with clean warm water before using it to clean the stoma and its surrounds.
There are pre-moistened wipes that you can use but they may contain products that will irritate your skin. It is a great idea to stick to dry wipes that can serve as washcloths. They should NOT be re-used after each use.
Avoid using paper towels or tissues to clean the stoma. These will leave little bits of paper stuck in the moist folds or crevices of the stoma.
Mild soap: Mild, non-perfumed soap is best to cleanse the stoma and the surrounding areas if it is visibly soiled, or if bits of faeces is caked around the perimeter. It is best to purchase your soap with your regular ostomy supplies. Don’t use just bath soap of other soaps as it may cause irritation. If you have to, check the ingredients in the soap before use.
Avoid harsh skin cleansers that have alcohol because alcohol will irritate your stoma and the skin around it. If you have 'pancaking', one of the colostomy problems that happen often, clean the area with mild soap.
Shower protector: If you prefer to shower with your pouch off, it's good to consider using a stoma shower protector after you may have cleaned the stoma with clear water. This will protect your stoma from perfumed shower gels or bubble bath soaps if you decide to have a long soak.
Additionally, this protector will keep waste from leaking into your bath water.
Deodorant: You want to have a canister of deodorant while cleaning your stoma. What I did was spray a couple of spurts around my abdomen before removing my colostomy bag, then another few bursts while cleaning my stoma. opening to empty or changing.
After, l spray some around the bathroom to take care of lingering odour, especially if it’s a public toilet in a mall or a restaurant.
- If you cut your faceplate holes, remember that the hole is meant to fit fairly snug around the stoma. Many ostomates cut this opening too small and this will squeeze the stoma tightly which in turn will cause bruising and slight bleeding. This may trigger off an infection.
- If the hole is wider than the stoma, the surrounding skin will become exposed to clumps of human waste. This will cause irritation and/or become infected.
- Excessive changing, pulling, tugging or yanking the faceplate off the skin will pull at abdominal hairs. The constant pull and tug will cause skin irritation for some, so, if you have a hairy abdomen, shave the area occasionally.
Having read all this, you will find that caring for your stoma is a necessary but easy task. Once you start to get the hang of it, you can care for your stoma and manage it successfully.
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
Comments Are Welcome
Alobeda (author) from The Global Village on March 06, 2011:
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.
AlegroMedical on February 28, 2011:
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!