Now the milder weather is behind us and winter is approaching, it’s good to know how to prepare for winter by knowing the effects of cold weather on our skin. Generally speaking, cold weather is a much more ideal environment for ostomates, no more melting pouches or sticky skin from the heat of summer but instead, the cold weather may help the ostomy products to adhere and perform better.
Follow our tips to find out how you can look after yourself and your stoma in the upcoming months.
What happens to our skin in winter:
The cold air of winter, dry indoor heat, lower humidity levels and the harsh winter wind can really zap your skin of moisture. We all recognise this with dry hands and faces, and chapped lips which are exposed to the elements. Although your stoma and peristomal skin are not directly exposed to the cold weather, you may still find your skin is drier than normal. Dry skin can cause flaking and irritation, which can be especially troublesome around the stoma area. Although the stoma bag should still adhere with no issue, this can become uncomfortable, which is why we’ve come up with a few handy tips:
You could try using a protective wipe to the skin around your stoma (peristomal) after you have washed and dried your skin and before you apply your next stoma pouch. Another good tip is to make sure there is a little bit of moisturising lotion within your adhesive remover spray to keep your skin in better condition.
Look at different types of flanges:
All pouches have a flange, which is the adhesive part that attaches the pouch to your skin around your stoma. There are many types of different flanges available now. If you are finding your skin is becoming dry and irritated, try an alginate products which will help alleviate any discomfort and help protect your skin through the winter months.
Invest in a humidifier:
You can pick up a relatively cheap humidifier which should help to prevent your skin from becoming too dry in the cold weather. Be careful not to overdo it though as too much moisture can cause the adhesive on a stoma bag to loosen, it could also potentially cause mould in the home. Between 30-50% humidity is usually a good rule of thumb, you can measure this using a hygrometer.
Warm up your pouch:
You may find in the cold weather that the adhesion of the pouch becomes hard and may benefit from being warmed up before application. Try popping it under your arm before changing your pouch and you will find your own body heat will help make the adhesive stickier.
Look at where you are storing your supplies:
Try to keep your supplies somewhere in the house over winter, rather than in a garden shed or garage, as it may be too cold for them. If you are storing them in your home, again make sure they are not stored next to a boiler or radiator as the extreme heat may dissolve the adhesive on the flange.
Wrap up warm over the next few months. We are all worried about our fuel bills, so an extra layer of clothing will help you to stay nice and warm. Make sure the layers are not too tight around both your stoma and pouch, so that it restricts it in any way. It’s also important to watch out for leaks, which may be difficult to identify if you are wearing lots of layers, so try and check you stoma regularly. You may find your output is colder during the winter months so, again try additional layers or a stoma protective cover.
Consider ordering extra supplies:
An entirely separate point, but there is always the chance that adverse weather conditions will affect the ability to have your supplies delivered. It can also prevent you from being able to head out to pick up more in person. We would always recommend making sure you have more products than you need just in case.
Exercise during the winter months:
It can be hard to find the motivation to keep exercising during the winter months when it is very cold, and the weather is icy. Try to stay active during this period as it is good for the mind, body and soul. Take a gentle stroll or walk with friends to get out and about and take in some fresh air and beautiful wintery scenery. Don’t forget to wrap up warm, layer your clothing and don’t forget a good pair of walking boots and off you go! It’s a great way to socialise.
If you had a regular exercise plan before your surgery, there is no reason why you cannot return to this again, with time. Make sure you have had the green light from your surgeon before you return to exercises if you are recovering from your stoma surgery.