What ostomy products do I use, and why?

Andy Fletcher

Andy Fletcher

Everyone has different needs, we are all different shapes, sizes, (and so are our stoma’s!) – the products I use may not be ideal for you, but hopefully it’ll give you some ideas to help you experiment and find a possible better solution to make our daily lives that much easier to manage.

I’ve had my Stoma for ten years now, and in that time, I have tried multiple products in an attempt to find what works best for me, and so in this blog, I thought I’d mention them – just in case there is something you have not thought of. It’s not fair to mention brand names here, and I offer no loyalty to a particular make or company, these products “just work well” for me….

Everyone has different needs, we are all different shapes, sizes, (and so are our stoma’s!) – the products I use may not be ideal for you, but hopefully it’ll give you some ideas to help you experiment and find a possible better solution to make our daily lives that much easier to manage.

Stoma bag
I’ve gone through plenty of different types in my time, but I now use a one-piece drainable pouch with velcro on the bottom. The edges of the bottom of the bag are curved, with the velcro being actual fabric rather than a plastic “push type”. Why have I chosen this?

Mainly for confidence. I have tried plenty of two-piece appliances, but I just cannot trust them. A lot of it is psychological – I suffered from a lot of leaks initially, and so the fear of having more is great. I also sit down for a job behind a desk all day I have found that the flange tends to bulge with my waste and this unsticks. At home you can just change, but at work when this happens, it’s embarrassing. It’s a shame because one particular brand was so comfortable to wear.

As a result, I stick to one piece. The one I use has curved edges – this is important for a man because using a bag with straight edges results in painful stab wounds in the most inappropriate places. The quality of Velcro is also important to me – I’m not a lover of clips, and I have noticed some stoma bags have plastic Velcro that require a little pressure to ensure a thorough seal. I’ve also found that because they are rigid, they are not perfect to clean after emptying out. The stoma bag I use has a fabric Velcro seal which has never let me down and is easy to keep clean.

Some stoma bags I have worn take ages to dry after a shower (unless you remove prior) – my stoma bad only needs a pat down with a towel and it is practically dry.

Collars
I have found the use of collars essential – basically your stoma goes through the collar which then sticks to your skin – a stoma bag is then placed over the top of this. The reason? – I had so much of my intestines removed that my poo is a bit toxic – it tends to burn and irritate my skin if it comes into contact with it. The collars (mostly) prevent this by acting as a barrier.

Adhesive wipes / sprays
Let’s be honest, warm soapy water will remove a stoma bag if you take your time in using it, but impatience will lead to pain, bleeding skin and a lot of irritation. An adhesive remover is just that – it removes the glue holding the stoma onto your skin enabling you a quick and easy way to change your appliance.

I use a spray around the top of the flange – two quick bursts are enough to completely remove the bag, and then I use a wipe to remove any residue left on the skin. I always stand on a puppy training mat whilst doing this though because I’ve found those bits of glue are a swine to remove if they land on a carpet.

Medical adhesive remover is silicon based and is non-sting – some brands (the wipes) come with aloe-Vera, some with Manuka honey, and some (which I use) are just plain. It’s all a matter of preference.

Disposable bags
In the UK, all delivery companies supply disposable bags as a complimentary item, some better than others, some thick, some thin. In the main though, they are designed to be used as a collection device for used stoma pouches, and so work well. Supposing though you are outside the UK, or don’t receive any. What do you select?

I’ve found nappy (diaper) bags ideal – they are thick enough to be used for this purpose, and come with the added bonus of being scented, so at least nasty smells are masked. Some types of dog “poo” bags are also ok to use, but make sure you choose a thicker one, and ones that aren’t on a roll …. They are not very good at tearing between perforations!

Cleaning wipes
Cleaning your stoma thoroughly is a very important task – as before though, some delivery companies supply them as complimentary items, but I have always found these to be far too large to use and as such wasteful. I’ve spent many an evening cutting these to what I call manageable sizes.

Whatever ones you use, name sure they are “non-woven” – using these will mean no bits of tissue are left behind.

Deodoriser
I have truthfully never found a deodoriser that I am completely happy with – I’ve always found that on the first empty out, they work well to mask any odour, but after that, you need to re-spray each and every time. I’ve mentioned it here though because although I can’t get on with them, it does not mean other people won’t. In the past, I have tried a heavily concentrated liquid that only required one or two drops per time, into an aerosol spray that is blasted into the pouch.

I’d be interested though if anyone can let me know of one that works for them … if you do, please leave a comment below ….

Thickeners
One of the downsides of having a stoma is that our waste is no longer solid – at best it’s similar to a porridge constancy, but at worst, mine can be like tap water. When our waste is like this, we are more prone to leaks.

A thickener is normally a powder that you place inside a stoma pouch each time after you empty. It will absorb liquid and turn it into a gel like solution. There are many types on the market – most are contained in a holder that dissolves in liquid releasing the contents (in the same way that a paracetamol capsule dissolves).

They are so effective that you can place a single capsule in a glass of water and then hold the glass upside down with no loss of liquid after about 5 minutes.

There are many brands on the market – some are straw like (whereas you cut an end off and pour the contents into the pouch), but the one I use is a discreet size that I can keep discreetly in my pocket at work.

For sheer peace of mind, I find these invaluable.

Loperamide
As I have just mentioned, our waste can be very watery at times – mostly you can attribute this to something you have eaten … for example, I am like tap water if I so much as look at a mushroom!

We can use thickeners as above, but another (short term solution) is to use loperamide (Imodium). This acts as a opoid-receptor agonist against the myenteric plexus of the large intestine (thanks Wiki!) – in plain English it increases the time faecal matter stays in the intestines, thus allowing more water to be absorbed out.

It also means that output is slowed. Personally, for me, this is a win-win situation, but you cannot take loperamide constantly. If I need it, I try for just one day only with a few days / weeks in-between. In other words, as little as I can get away with.

Stoma Cup
When I can, I remove my stoma bag whilst in the shower so I can really feel clean (AKA going commando) – after all, any waste that materialises will be washed does the drain. This isn’t ideal for some people though – and what happens if you don’t have a shower?

A Stoma Cup looks exactly like the top of a deodorant spray can and has two hooks – one on each end. An elasticated belt holds the cup snugly against your body and so will allow you to have a bath / shower without your stoma bag on. There are some problems I have found with this though ….

Always make sure you place a non-woven wipe inside the cup to help catch any waste. Make sure the cup is snug against your skin (else waste will flood out) and remember that you possibly don’t have long before your stoma is active. Those cups don’t hold a lot and will fill up quickly.

I have one at home, but rarely use it – I prefer to shower, and usually remove my bag when doing so.

Stoma Bag Cover
These are not a necessary piece of equipment – more of a personal choice, but for me, they are invaluable. A cover helps protect my clothes against a leak, they actually make the stoma bag comfier to wear, and they don’t tend to show through clothes as much as a stoma bag does.

In the UK, you can obtain covers on the NHS – a lot of companies supply these, but they will be in limited colours. They are fairly cheap enough to buy, and come in a multitude of styles, images and patterns. You can have a humorous style (my favourite just says the words “s**t happens”)

Have a look on Google or eBay for covers – you will normally be asked to send in a sample stoma bag so the covers can be made to size. Or, why not try to make your own?

Powder
If you have weeping skin, powder is a must. Weeping skin will prevent the stoma bag securing against your skin.

This powder adheres to open wounds this allowing your appliance to stick to your skin. As a word of warning though, use the powder minimally, and remove any excess. I don’t use this often, but it’s handy when I do.

If you have any products not mentioned here, why not leave a comment below and share it with us all?

Meet Andy

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One Response

  1. Have really enjoyed reading your experiences as I can relate to some of your problems. I rely on advice from my suppliers who give excellent advice. I am coming up to ,y 89th birthday and have spent the last four years with my addition! I feel very happy to wake up each day as the Surgeon I saw on my first appointment told me I was too old for an operation but here I am 4 years later back to my normal weight – I lost 2 stone on the over 5 months suffering before he finally decided to go ahead with the removal of a large part of my colon but I am left with a vaginal fistula which makes life more of a problem. I am still enjoying life but my biggest problem is dining out! Glad to still be enjoying life and no grumbles!

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