Living with an Ostomy

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An ostomy should not affect your ability to resume your normal lifestyle. Many people find they can continue with all of the activities that they enjoyed prior to illness and surgery. There are many individuals with ostomies who are distance runners, swimmers, skiers, skydivers, scuba divers, hockey players, and football players - the list is endless.

Bathing

BathingBathing or showering is not restricted by an ostomy. You should bathe or shower with the entire appliance on, or the entire appliance off on your appliance change days. The water or soap will not hurt or damage your stoma although make sure to thoroughly rinse the soap off your skin if bathing without the appliance, so that the new appliance can attach properly.
Do not let a shower stream fall directly on your stoma. If bathing with your appliance on, just dry the pouch with a towel,
or use the cool setting on a hair dryer to dry.

Hot tubs are also okay, but note that long soaks in a hot tub, or in a warm bath, may lessen the normal wear-time of the appliance and you may need to change it more frequently.

Clothing

There are no real "do's or don'ts" with clothing, as most choices are more a matter of comfort. Unless you chose to tell people, your ostomy appliance will likely not be obvious under your clothing. Concealment of an appliance is somewhat dependent upon the type of appliance worn (a one-piece versus a two-piece) and the location on the abdomen. In general, patterned fabrics tend to conceal the appliance more easily than solid colors. The choice of underwear is again a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer loose underwear while others want more support and may chose a lycra pant/brief; some may want the pouch covered with underwear, while others prefer to wear a low cut pant/brief. It is often a matter of experimenting to determine what works for you. Check with your ET (Enterostomal Therapy) nurse or local chapter of the United Ostomy Association to see if there are specialty shops or resources in your area for specialty clothes and underwear.

Odour

No one should ever detect an odour of stool when the appliance is secure and in place. Presence or absence of odour in the stool is somewhat determined by each individual's body chemistry. There are, however, measures, which can aid in reducing the odour of stool when the appliance is emptied. Measures would include adding commercial deodorizing tablets or liquids to aid in de-odouring the inside of the appliance or using aerosols or wicks to freshen the bathroom. It is also important to clean the lower end of the pouch after emptying with tissue or a wipe.

Gas

There are several suggestions that will help with gas production. It is important to eat regular balanced meals. Skipping meals is more likely to increase gas production. Initially after surgery, there will be more gas as well as noise as the bowel has been handled and is empty. Gas and noise lessens once diet and activity is resumed. Food should be eaten slowly and in a relaxed manner. Activities such as gum chewing, smoking, mouth breathing, drinking carbonated beverages or sucking on ice chips can all encourage swallowing large amounts of air contributing to an increase in gas production.

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