Bathing with an Ostomy
I have just returned home from the hospital and have a new ostomy. I am concerned about bathing with my pouch. Is there anything I should know before I have a bath or shower?
Bathing is often a concern for people living with an ostomy. Fears of the appliance loosening or falling off because of the exposure to water and heat, or excessive time taken to dry the appliance after bathing, can make the daily task challenging. Some techniques and products may help to make your regular cleaning routine a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
In general, routine bathing should not interfere with the adhesion and security of your pouching system. In fact, the heat/steam from bathing can sometimes improve the adhesion, particularly in the first couple of days after you have applied a new system. However, if you like to frequently linger in long, hot baths (including hot tubs and steam baths) then you may find that the wear-time of your pouching system will be shorter than anticipated. There is no “correct” wear-time for any appliance, so you should make your decision regarding frequency of bathing and pouch changes based on personal preference and enjoyment.
Drying the appliance is somewhat dictated by the type of appliance you are using. You may dry non-tape bordered flanges and non-covered pouches with a towel. Try using the cool setting on a hair dryer for tape borders and covered pouches. Be careful not to use the hot setting, as this can distort/melt the pouch with prolonged exposure
If you use a two-piece system, then you should bathe either with the entire appliance on (flange and pouch) or with the entire appliance off (on scheduled appliance change days only). You may hear recommendations to remove only the pouch for bathing, leaving the flange and stoma exposed during the bath. This practice will contribute to premature washout or melting of the flange/barrier, thus more frequent appliance changes. Leave the system intact to preserve the barrier.
If you are using a cloth-covered pouch, you may want to switch to a stoma cap or a non-covered pouch for bathing, thus avoiding the time needed to dry your pouch afterward. Some people find that using a copolymer wipe (such as Hollister’s Skin Gel Wipes, Coloplast’s Skin Barrier Wipe, or ConvaTec’s AllKare) on the outside of a paper tape border flange will help to keep the tape dry. You may need to repeat application with every bath/shower. If it is your scheduled “change-day”, you may remove the appliance prior to bathing/showering, leaving the stoma exposed. If you do so, remember to avoid a direct shower stream on your stoma. Avoid the use of oil based soaps, shower gels, bath foams and moisturizing lotions as these will be hard to rinse off your skin, ultimately preventing adhesion of your next appliance. Once out of the bath/shower, your skin should be completely dry before applying your fresh appliance.
If you are using a one-piece appliance, then many of the same suggestions listed above may help, such as towel drying, using a cool setting on a hair dryer, and the use of copolymer wipes for the tape borders. If you are using a closed-end one-piece appliance, then you may elect to remove the pouch prior to bathing/showering (paying attention to the concerns regarding soaps, etc), or to keep the pouch on until after bathing, doing your routine change once your bath/shower is complete.
Some individuals have developed creative options for keeping the appliance dry. Shower aprons, or plastic pouch covers are products that may protect the appliance, keeping it dry. The Glad® kitchen plastic wrap product, Press’n Seal™, may be effective for individuals with minimal abdominal hair. Apply a large piece of the product over the appliance, pressing directly onto the surrounding abdomen. This provides short-term protection from water. Visible abdominal hair may interfere with the product attaching to the skin, so this may not work for all. Aprons, covers, and plastic wrap tend to work only for showering, and not for bathing. The use of these covers should be considered as optional and not as a necessity for regular bathing. Adding extra tape (e.g. waterproof tape) to the borders of the flange is generally not recommended, as this may cause skin irritation over prolonged use. If you need to wear a belt to support your appliance, then you may want to have two belts on hand so you can wear one while bathing, then switch into a dry belt afterwards. Your wet belt can dry over night, allowing you to repeat the process daily.