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Best Practices to Avoid Common Ostomy Pitfalls

I am sure that the overwhelming majority of us TRY to do the right thing for our bodies and most importantly for our ostomies.  However sometimes we are in a rush and have to take shortcuts.  Sometimes we are limited in supplies and have to "make do" with what we have on hand.  Sometimes we just make mistakes, plain and simple, no matter how simple or logical a solution may sound.  Here are some issues we have heard about or dealt with and how the solution may not always be a positive one.

  • Not wearing a seat belt in the car:  We know the seat belt may sometimes get in the way of your stoma or ostomy appliance; however a well-placed and properly used seatbelt should not interfere with your stoma function, much less damage your stoma.  In the unlikely event of an accident, I concur your stoma MAY be damaged as a result of wearing your seat belt.  A damages stoma is far easier to repair than the potentially life threatening injuries sustained during an automobile accident when you are not wearing a seat belt.
  • Using alcohol to clean the skin around your stoma:  While alcohol will indeed clean your skin, it is also a very powerful drying agent.  Prolonged exposure to alcohol and its drying properties can severely damage your skin.
  • Ignoring skin problems:  Some of us have the tendency to avoid medical issues as a means to "deal with it".  As true with most injuries, illnesses, problems, skin issues are much easier to deal with the sooner they are diagnosed and treatment begins.  Do not ignore skin problems with the hope that it will just "get better".
  • Wrapping the end of your pouch around the clamp before closing it:  Some people are tempted to wrap the tail end of their drainable pouch around the clamp before snapping it closed thinking it will help keep the clamp tight.  Unfortunately all this does is bend or spring the clamp out of shape which will prevent it from working properly in the future.
  • Emptying a pouch only when it is full:  Excess weight in a pouch will separate the connection on a two-piece system, or put undue strain on the skin with a one-piece system.  Rather than waiting for your pouch to be filled to capacity and risk a leak, try emptying your pouch when it is 1/3 full or half full at the most.
  • Wearing your appliance for an extended period of time until it leaks:  The entire point is to change an appliance BEFORE it leaks.  This is just one step in giving our skin the best care and protection we can provide.
  • Washing and reusing pouches for months at a time:  I am sure that most of us are trying to be as cost-conscientious as possible, and reusing pouches occasionally isn't necessarily a bad thing, overdoing it is.  Eventually the plastic in a pouch will become saturated with the chemicals and wastes it is in contact with and no amount of washing will clean the pouch.  The best practice is to throw away the pouch when you throw away the face plate.
  • Trying every new pouch or appliance you hear about:  While it is perfectly fine to experiment with a new appliance or even new components of your system occasionally, especially if you are unhappy with your current appliance, make sure to limit your changes to one to two at a time to get a feel for the differences without having so many variables clouding your judgement.  Remember to that you get the best service from the appliances that you know the most about and have the most experience with.  If you trade out a component of your system, or trade out your whole new system, try to give it some time to make sure you get to learn the new device before just moving on to the next best thing.
  • Snapping the pouch off the face-plate to expel gas:  In practice, this action really doesn't do much to control odor.  A better way to release gas and control odor is to hold the tail of the pouch beyond the clamp with a tissue with some daily men's deodorant on the tissue.  Hold the pouch up so only the gas is at the clamp; open the clamp to let the gas escape through the tissue and deodorant.  Use the tissue to clean the end of the pouch and close the clamp as normal.

With these tips, we hope that you can avoid some of the common pitfalls we see routinely.  If you have any more tips or comments, please feel free to let us know!

Written by OstomyHelp Staff and Express Medical Supply
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