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Managing Ostomy Accidents – Leaks, Sleeping, Odors, and Blowouts

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 learn how to manage the potential disasters prone to any situation.

Maintain a good outlook of things, learn to laugh through life’s hardships and not to take it too seriously and you’ll live longer and happier. Obvious common-sense aside, here are some tips to better manage accidents with Ostomy.

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 better manage leaks:

1) Change your 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. While a standard barrier/wafer can cause leaks with retracted stomas, 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. Know 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. See our various posts on Ostomy Products for more information.

2) Drain or Change Regularly – Take the opportunities you have to empty or change your pouches when available. You should empty a drainable pouch when it’s 1/3 full, but whether you’re 1/3 full or not it doesn’t matter; drain when you have the chance.

3) Pack and Carry a Kit – A suggested kit would have 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.

4) Patch it up – If you’re in a real bind and you’re leaking, find out exactly where the leak is coming from and see if you can patch it or clog it with something. Typically, 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.

5) Proper Clothing –If you’re walking a lot, wear clothes that give your stoma and appliances some breathing room. You’ll decrease the friction of the clothing against the baseplate (which can cause edges to come loose), and decrease the irritation of the baseplate against the skin. If you want a little 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.

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. Here are 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.

Also, it’s a little redundant I know, but see the Ostomy Guide post on Ostomy Odors and Cleanliness.

A pouch blowout is a potential nightmare accident, probably only second to not having 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 for blowouts.

Gas buildup in a pouch can fill it very quickly, causing the pouch to fill up. With an ostomy appliance, the point of weakest resistance is always going to be the first place to pop open. In the case of drainable pouches, this is usually the drain outlet at the bottom. So, you need a way to release this gas. Some pouches come with integrated gas filters, but if they do not, you can always install a system like the Osto-EZ-Vent or a Filtrodor Odor to release gas buildup.

Hopefully these tips prove useful for you. Please comment any additional thoughts or comments. Thanks!

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8 Responses to “Managing Ostomy Accidents – Leaks, Sleeping, Odors, and Blowouts”

  1. Yvonne says:

    Can you help me by suggesting a product I can use while the skin around my stoma heals? I have 2 pretty large cuts that may have been caused by some adhesives or bending/movement. One cut is about an inch from my stoma & the other is about 4-5 inches below the first cut. It’s been very difficult letting air to the cuts for healing.
    Thank you!

  2. admin says:

    Hi Yvonne,

    Thank you for reaching out, and I’m very sorry to hear about the cuts around your stoma. Have you considered the extra thin duoderm? Here’s a link: Extra Thin Duoderm

  3. Albert says:

    Right now I am having problems with my pouch. It frequently gets blocked when I am sitting in my usual position, and it tends to leak more than usual. I use Invacare products.

  4. Albert says:

    I don’t know what happened to my previous comment; it seems to be gone, so here I go again:

    There is nothing more frustrating (aside from a less-than-great love life, that is) than having your ostomy pouch leak frequently. I have a urostomy pouch, and ordinarily it goes a week without leaking, but occasionally I go through these phases where i leak every other day, or every three days, or sometimes more than once a day. I know that situations like this depend on the individual person, but nothing drives me up the wall more. I once came close to having an emotional breakdown over it.

  5. M. B. H says:

    Hi. My dad just had the surgery May 12th. And my mom said that it looks like my dads stoma came loose. Is that bad/OK/horrible? And I could use answers fast. My mom just descovered this.

  6. admin says:

    Hi MBH,

    As much as I’d love to be able to provide answers for you, your dad needs to talk with his doctor as soon as possible!

  7. M. B. H says:

    I’m so sorry! I guess I didn’t say that very clear. It didn’t come completely off. Just in one spot. Thank you! By the way I’m eleven.

  8. julie b says:

    when I sleep my bag gets filled mostly with air
    because I snore would wearing one a breath right

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