If you’re living with a colostomy, urostomy, or ileostomy, one of the biggest challenges you’ll probably face is a leaking stoma bag. Whatever the circumstances, and wherever you are, a leaking ostomy pouch is a stressful hassle. Changing clothing or bedding, scrambling to find a bathroom if you’re in public, and changing your stoma bag are all something you might have to face.
Preventing leaks will keep your stoma healthy and reduce skin irritation and keep your pouching system in good working order. Let’s take a look at 8 tips to prevent ostomy bag leaks.
1. Change Your Stoma Bag
Regularly changing your stoma bag is the best way to prevent stoma bag leakages. An overfilled or overweight pouch can strain the skin around your stoma, which can lead to ostomy leaks.
Keep to a regular schedule for changing your stoma bag based on your personal preferences, your ostomy appliance, and your stoma output. Changing twice a week is considered usual, but find what works for you and your unique stoma.
2. Skin Barrier Fits Properly
Just as there are many types of people and bodies, there are plenty of different options for finding the right ostomy supplies. Ideally, the right size and type of skin barrier will adhere to your skin and protect it from leakage and irritation. Whether your stoma is large or small or recessed or protruding, the drainage should flow into your pouch without leaking under the skin barrier.
Use a stoma measuring guide before you apply a barrier. It should fit where the skin and stoma meet, with no skin showing. Stoma powder should be applied to any open skin before you set up a new ostomy pouching system. Make sure it’s not talcum powder.
3. Secure Your Stoma Bag During Exercise
If you’re participating in any physical activity or sports, ensure your ostomy bag is secure. There are clothing items and accessories available to help maintain your pouching system and prevent leaks.
An ostomy wrap or other support garments are designed to keep stoma bags securely in place. Tight-fitting sports attire, such as leggings or bike shorts, can also be useful in keeping your stoma in place. It’s also a good idea to empty stoma bags before participating in any exercise.
4. Create an Ostomy Skincare Routine
Your skin barrier should be applied to clean, dry, shaved skin to prevent leakage. If the skin around your stoma is raw, irritated, or weepy, something isn’t fitting correctly. Broken skin not only makes it harder for a proper seal to take place, but it also might lead to skin problems if left untreated.
Before applying your ostomy skin barrier, it’s important to ensure good skin health. You can clean the area using baby wipes or ostomy-safe cleansers. Apply stoma powder to absorb moisture, and apply stoma paste to fill in uneven skin counters and create a flatter surface for the skin barrier.
5. Identify Skincare Products that Irritate
Your doctor or stoma care nurse can help you find the right supplies to ensure you maintain good skin health and prevent sore skin. Peristomal skin is sensitive, and any lotions, creams, or soaps should not be oily or contain alcohol. If the surrounding skin around your stoma has body hair, carefully shave with a clean safety razor before applying skin barrier rings.
When removing your skin barrier, gently peel it off to prevent any undue strain or skin stripping. Poor peristomal skin health can cause ostomy pouch leaks and will cause skin issues down the road.
6. Be Mindful of Your Diet
If you’re experiencing unexpected or faster bag fills than usual, it might be due to a recent change in your diet, an allergic reaction, or even nerves and stress. You might also suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, making your output unpredictable.
Staying hydrated is essential, especially if you have a stoma. Maintaining a balanced diet that includes a range of food from all the food groups will keep you in the best health. For example, beer, fizzy drinks, or spicy foods might cause excess gas or bloating, so be careful how much you consume.
You can always chat with an ostomy nurse or find a local ostomy clinic to talk about making diet changes that will help reduce gas or diarrhea. Limiting foods such as broccoli, beans, dairy products, carbonated drinks, and excess sugars is usually a good first step.
7. Be Careful When Removing Your Bag
One of the biggest causes of leaks is having a stoma bag too full, as it weighs down and pulls against the seal. Take frequent bathroom breaks to change your pouch throughout the day to help reduce the risk of leakage.
Emptying or changing your bag when it’s about ⅓ full is a good rule of thumb. Any more, and it will begin to weigh down your ostomy seal. Be sure to avoid the danger zone, which is when your bag is full enough that the output will start collecting around the stoma itself. If this happens frequently enough, it will cause irritation or even infection.
8. Find Quality Ostomy Products and Accessories
There are plenty of products and accessories to provide additional support and protection against minor leaks. Talk to your stoma care nurse or doctor about your options.
Consider getting a support garment such as an ostomy belt. These wrap around your waist and maintain the position of your stoma bag, especially during physical activity. If you have an active lifestyle, an ostomy belt can give you more security and peace of mind and help reduce the risk of leaks.
Barrier strips or adhesives are good options to keep your skin barrier in place. They should be waterproof and not cause any irritation. If you’re seeing leftover residue on your skin from adhesives, consider an adhesive remover wipe on your peristomal skin before applying your stoma bag.
Get the Right Advice with Conval-Aid
Conval-Aid has a convenient, monthly Ostomy Clinic with therapists available to help. They offer assessment, teaching, and follow-up appointments. If you require the services of an Ostomy Clinic in Ottawa and are in need of ostomy products and incontinence aids, our clinic is a convenient and comfortable choice. We have all the ostomy products you need on-site for easy product selection and same-day order fulfillment. You can learn more about our services on our website.