Getting to grips with the amount of stoma products available to you as an ostomate can be quite overwhelming. Essential items such as your stoma bag are the absolute basics in keeping your stoma routine as simple as possible, however additional supplies or accessories may be required to help you in caring for your stoma and provide protection to your skin.
For some ostomates, accessories are used on a short-term basis. For others, they may be introduced into the daily skin care regime with the aim of gaining a secure seal for the bag, to prevent your stoma and surrounding skin (peristomal) from any trauma, whilst protecting the skin from the stool which can lead to skin irritation. So where do you start when choosing an accessory and why would you need one?
Here is a guide when looking at accessories to see what is available and deciding which one is appropriate to help make your life easier.
The most popular accessory is the adhesive remover, which is available in both an aerosol spray or wipes. These are extremely helpful when removing your bag as it helps prevent against “skin stripping” which is when the skin becomes irritated by the flange being regularly removed from the skin.
When changing your bag, simply lift the corner of the flange and squirt a small amount of the adhesive remover to allow the liquid to gently trickle down the back of the flange and release the adhesive, allowing you to gently lift off the bag. The wipes work in a similar way and are ideal for taking holidays, especially if you are flying.
Stoma powder is used to absorb excess moisture from the skin, more commonly when the skin around your stoma (peristomal) is irritated and weeping. Powders can often avoid further damage to the skin. Don’t use a stoma powder unless your skin is weepy or raw, there is no advantage to using it as it doesn’t prevent skin irritation and could have an impact on getting a good seal with your wafer.
Sprinkle a small amount of the powder after you have washed and dried the skin around your stoma. It is important to make sure that the powder has been dusted off so there is no visible powder left on the skin, failure to do this will likely cause your wafer to lose its adhesive strength.
Barrier sprays, wipes or cream can protect the skin by creating a protective barrier between your stoma appliance and your skin. It protects the skin from the strain caused by regular removal of your stoma appliance. They can also protect the skin from any stoma output which can cause irritation to the skin and to any areas which are already sore and damaged.
All barrier sprays, wipes or creams are applied after washing and drying the skin around your stoma, before you apply your next stoma bag.
Pastes are useful on uneven skin around a stoma, such as dips, creases, or scar lines on the stomach area. By smoothing and levelling minor skin irregularities, it creates an ideal base to improve the fit of a stoma appliance helping to keep the bag secure. Pastes can help protect the skin from output.
Most pastes are alcohol and sting free, but make sure you check as some do contain alcohol which can be uncomfortable if the skin is broken and irritated.
Barrier rings, protective seals or slims are very similar to each other and are all designed to stretch and mould around any type of stoma with the aim to improve your stoma appliance fitting, by sealing the gap between the stoma and the baseplate. They are perfect for uneven skin surfaces around the stoma, or for scar sites, dips, and creases. They are all available in a ring or oval shape and work by swelling up around the stoma when it comes into contact with liquid or ostomy output, providing protection for any skin that is exposed.
Convex barrier shapes are also now available and are for ostomates who need to prevent stoma output from getting under the bag seal.
Barrier rings also prevent and protect against leaks by absorbing more moisture or stoma output to prevent and help heal sore skin around your stoma. They can safely be used for ostomates who also have wounds, fistulas, and surgical drains.
Lubricating gel deodorants are a colourless and non-perfumed odour neutraliser. They can be used in both drainable and close bages and help to ease emptying bag static and sticking. Perfect for those who experience pancaking in their bages. They are available in a both bottle and small sachets. It is best to introduce the gel through the aperture of the bag (hole of the bag) before application or re-apply through the drain end after emptying your bag. Ensure the gel is covering most of the internal lining by rubbing the gel around your bag.
At some time or another most ostomates will experience diarrhoea or loose output. In addition to introducing food with natural thickening agents into your diet, you may also want to try a thickening agent which you can pop straight into your stoma bag. These come as a small sachet or capsule. They sit at the bottom of the bag and help solidify the output into a gel, making the output easier to drain and helping with leakages. If you are using a drainable bag, remember to replace the thickening agent each time you drain your bag.
Flange extenders are designed to add extra security and comfort around your wafer. They are flexible and come in varying lengths and widths. The extender should move with you and your bag and provide confidence for those ostomates who find their bag lifts around the edges, starting to come loose. When this happens it often results in reduced wear time, and you find yourself having to change your bag more often than you would like. You may find you need just one extender to a particular area that you want to secure, or you may find it beneficial to wear several to create a complete seal around the flange.
Ostomy belts can be beneficial to many ostomates. These types of belts are used to support the weight of the ostomy bag reducing stress on the body, helping to keep your bag in place and reducing leakages and skin irritation. The ostomy belt helps to secure your bag, preventing any discomfort or awkward accidents. They are also very useful if you want to engage in physical activity.
These belts can help to protect your stoma from developing hernias or from prolapsing, and there are supports specifically designed to protect stomas after these have occurred. There are even supports designed to protect your stoma during rigorous physical activity such as contact sports
Ostomy belts are designed to be reused multiple times. Try hand washing them in warm water using your usual non-bleaching washing detergent and wrapping in a towel to remove excess water. For best results allow to air dry only, this will help in making them last longer.