Your Stoma and Optimum Hygiene

23 August 2017

Having a stoma fitted is, without doubt, a life changing experience, whether it be temporary or permanent, and one that can take some getting used to.

Many people with a stoma, quickly develop a complex about the issue, and this only exacerbates the problem, as they feel isolated and unable to ask for help or advice, even from their partner or loved ones.

Worries About Stoma Care

Ironically, many partners are more than happy to help and assist but don’t want to offer in case of hurting or embarrassing their partner.

Communication is of paramount importance in situations like this, so if you are part of a couple sit down and discuss the issues, and get them out in the open, rather than trying to deal with issues on an individual basis. The stoma is not going anywhere, so it is a subject that needs to be discussed and dealt with, in the same way, that a married couple would deal with any other issues that arise.

Take Your Time and Learn The Process

Keeping your stoma clean, is not especially difficult, but as with most new skills, it can take some time to become proficient at, so perhaps the best piece of advice would be to give yourself plenty of time.

When the time comes to clean your stoma, confirm with everyone else in the home, that nobody wants to use the bathroom within the next forty-five minutes. The last thing an inexperienced patient wants is to be interrupted during the process, by another family member desperate to use the loo.

This simple act of planning and preparation will ensure that you are undisturbed and prevent any embarrassing situations from developing for either party.

Be Prepared

For those readers who have ever had small children, the memories of going on even a short trip will be all about the extra luggage that a small baby entailed. It always seems to be the case that the smaller the child, the more equipment they require, and you had to be organised and have everything in one bag.

The same thing should apply to your cleaning procedures. Purchase a good quality bag or container with individual compartments, which allows you to keep all of your cleaning products in the one place. This will not only assist in the cleaning process but will also inspire you with confidence, knowing that you have everything you need close at hand.

Before you begin doing anything, layout all of your cleaning products and equipment within easy reach, as the last thing you want is to remove the bag only for your stoma to jump into action.

Now that everything is suitably prepared it is time to start the process. The biggest challenge for most people is cutting the bag into the right shape for your stoma. Getting this part right is key to your success, as cutting the bag too small, could potentially cause damage to your stoma, and cutting the hole too large, could irritate the skin.

Your stoma nurse will have taught you how to complete the process properly, and as with all things, practice makes perfect, and it is imperative that you persevere, as it will quickly become second nature.

The next decision for you to make is whether or not you want to use odour control products, if you do then place them inside your bag, before moving forward to the next step. This is an entirely personal decision, so do whatever suits you, and don’t be pressurised into a decision.

Time To Switch Bags

Now that the new bag has been cut properly, and the odour products added, if necessary, it’s time for the switch. Slowly peel away the old bag, Take your time, and do not rush the process.

Skin Protective Wipe

Once the old bag has been removed clean the area thoroughly with warm water. You can use a non-perfumed soap if that is your preference, but many people are concerned that the soap could cause a reaction or irritation, so bear this in mind when making the decision.

You can and should wipe the stoma itself, but be very gentle in your cleaning actions as the stoma itself is a very delicate area. There is always the possibility that it may start to bleed, but do not panic if this happens, as it is likely to stop just as quickly as it started.

After you have finished the cleaning process, use dry wipes to dry the stoma. Do not rub the stoma, pat gently, as rubbing could cause irritation or cause the skin to break. Never use a towel or cotton wool, as the towel could contain germs leading to infection, and cotton wool will leave particles stuck to the stoma.

The good news is that the cleaning process is now complete and you are on the homeward stretch. If you are using any Stoma or barrier pastes, apply them now, again taking your time and being very careful.

Applying the New Bag

In the first week weeks, it is advisable to use a mirror for the next part, but over time as your confidence and skills grow, this will not be necessary. Line the bottom part of the bag up and then slowly push the hole over your stoma, ensuring that a good seal is achieved around the circumference of the stoma.

Ensure that there are no wrinkles or gaps and that the adhesive is equally spread and has no bubbles. For those using a one piece system other than ensuring that the drainable bag pouch is closed, that is your mission complete.

If you are using a two bag system, the final piece of the task is to apply the second bag. Simply follow the same process as above by sliding the bag over the stoma working from the bottom upwards. Once attached gently pull on the bag, to ensure it is securely attached.

You have now completed your first independent bag change, and before long these will become as automatic and straightforward as brushing your teeth.

Disposal Of The Old Bags

Although the bag has been successfully changed, the hygiene aspect is not complete. It is essential that the old bags and waste products are disposed of properly. Simply place the used bag, and any wipes or other materials used in a disposable sealed bag, and then put them in the bin.

This is no different to disposing of a baby's nappy and is nothing to be overly concerned about.

Under no circumstances should you dispose of the pads or wipes down the toilet, as this will cause blockages and significant issues with your plumbing system.

Finally, wash and dry your hands, and then confirm that you have sufficient supplies remaining before restocking your container.

This might seem like a long and convoluted process, but you will quickly get the hang of it and it is worth remembering that with practice everything becomes easier.