Ostomy accidents can happen – leaks, blowouts, strong odors; you name it, if its prone to causing embarrassing situations, it’s probably going to happen at some point. But with some help (and experience), you’ll soon know how to manage the potential disasters prone to any situation.
Maintain a good outlook of things, learning to laugh through life’s hardships can ensure that you’ll live longer and happier. But all proverbial optimism aside, here are some straightforward tips and products that can help you to best prevent and manage accidents with an ostomy in your normal day-to-day life.
Leaks happen, and they happen at the point of least resistance. Nobody wants a leaky stoma, but it happens. With some prep and care, you can manage leaky stomas effectively. Here are some tips to best manage leaks with an Ostomy:
- Change to New Products – Stomas come in all shapes and sizes, so maybe the particular product you’re using isn’t the best for your individual stoma. For example, some stomas are retracted in the skin, so they’re more prone to leaking when attaching an appliance. A convex-shaped wafer/barrier adds extra protection for these types of stomas. There are also moldable seals, powders, adhesives, and wipes all designed to help leaks and manage stoma issues. Knowing the options available to you and discover what best suits your individual needs. It never hurts to ask a manufacturer for samples of specific products you think may help, or to ask nurses & physicians about the types of products available. We have many posts on ostomy products on Ostomy Guide, here’s a buyer’s guide for ostomy supplies with illustrations and explanations on the basic features of ostomy products.
- Drain or Change Regularly – Take the opportunities you have to empty or change your pouches when available. As a good practice, empty a drainable pouch when it’s 1/3 full, but whether you’re 1/3 full or not it doesn’t matter; if you’re an active person, it is always best to drain when you have the chance to do so.
- Pack and Carry a Kit – A suggested kit would contain the wafer/barrier (ideally pre-cut if traveling since you can’t take scissors on a plane), replacement pouches, barrier wipes, an odor-killer spray, and airtight waste bags for discreet disposal. Keep it on you if you’re out and keep it nearby if you’re at home, work, school, etc. And, speaking of planes, here is some information on Traveling with an Ostomy.
- Patch it up – If you’re in a bind and your ostomy pouch is leaking, find out exactly where the leak is coming from and see if you can patch it or clog it with something. Most commonly, leaks form underneath the barrier because the adhesive comes loose. Strapping this down with a strong tape like duct tape (yes, it does fix everything!), or stuffing a napkin in there can buy you enough extra time to get to a bathroom to minimize leaks and manage your ostomy.
- Proper Clothing – If you walk a lot, wear clothes that allow your stoma and appliances some breathing room. You’ll decrease friction of the clothing against the baseplate (which can cause edges to come loose), and decrease irritation of the baseplate against the skin. If you want extra protection for this, you may consider Ostomy Armor a unique product designed to protect a stoma and appliance.
There are numerous stories where someone’s ostomy pouch has exploded or leaked while sleeping, causing a big mess, like this poor guy. But even if you catch it before a mess is made, you’ll still have to interrupt your sleep to manage your ostomy. Right now, here are the two tips I can think of:
1) Nutrition – Keep track of what you eat and how it affects your ostomy! Especially new ostomates who have not yet seen how their diet affects their ostomy. All foods are digested differently; this includes how your body passes it. See Ostomy Nutrition and Diet for some basic guidelines of eating and drinking with a stoma. You can also track your diet with this free printable Ostomy food journal.
2) Drain before bed – A no-brainer really; drain or change the pouch before bed and again when you first wake up.
In the air, in the body, in the pouch – there are numerous ways to help prevent odors. See this buyer’s guide for ostomy odor control, and some tips to stay odor-free:
1) Carry a Spray – Something strong enough to neutralize airborne odors instantly. They’re sold in stores but there are strong, fast working options that are convenient enough to carry in a travel pack, like Medi-Aire Odor Eliminator and Odor Assassin.
2) Use a Pouch Deodorizer – Pouch deodorizers are either a drop formula that goes into the pouch to neutralize odors inside, or a vent and filter system that is either integrated or attached to the pouch to drain gas. One example is Filtrodor Filters from Coloplast.
3) Devrom Tablets – A simple tablet of bismuth subgallate taken with meals can help lessen pouch odors. Find Devrom here.
Also, it’s a little redundant I know, but see the Ostomy Guide post on Ostomy Odors and Cleanliness.
A pouch ‘blowout’ is the mother of all nightmare ostomy accidents, second only to not having the supplies to clean & re-pouch. Blowouts can happen for a number of reasons; faulty appliances, poor appliance changing, external pressures on a pouch, or the fasteners on a pouch coming loose can all be causes.
Gas buildup in a pouch can fill it very quickly. With an ostomy appliance, the point of weakest resistance is always going to be the first place to pop open. This is usually going to be the barrier/pouch connection, or in the case of drainable pouches, the drain outlet at the bottom. There must be a way to release the gas from the pouch. Many pouches come with integrated gas filters, but if yours does not, you can install one like the Osto-EZ-Vent or a Filtrodor Odor Filters to release gas buildup.
Hopefully these tips prove useful for you. Please comment any additional thoughts or comments. Thanks!