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What to do when the plastic of a stoma bag irritates your skin

Skin irritation is a common issue and can be experienced by many ostomates at any time of their stoma journey. Irritated and sore skin can make you feel uncomfortable, sore and pretty fed up too! But don’t worry, all issues with skin irritation can be easily overcome with the help of your stoma care nurse who can guide you to use the best product for you and your current situation.

There are many causes of irritated skin when you have a stoma, one of the less common causes ostomates have talked about, is when the plastic of a stoma bag irritates your skin. So, why does this happen? We all sweat/perspire, especially as we are heading to the warmer weather, and when the plastic material of the stoma pouch is sitting beneath our clothes, next to the skin, it can create a moist environment. The plastic material can then rub against our skin, making it easily sore and irritated.

You may find that whilst you are tucked up under thick bedding, or when you exercise, your skin becomes more moist than usual, which can also be the cause of irritation. Do not worry, this is all perfectly normal, but wearing a pouch during these times may be challenging!

Other common causes of skin irritation:

There are other common causes of skin irritation and these are usually due to leaks from your stoma pouch. When the pouch leaks, stool can seep underneath the flange and onto your skin, which then results in sore, irritated skin. So, always make sure your stoma appliance is a good fit. If you are uncertain or need help with measuring your stoma, contact your Stoma Care Nurse who will be happy to help.

The shape and size of your stoma may have changed. In the first few weeks following surgery, your stoma will slowly reduce in size as the swelling goes down. Further down the line, your stoma may also alter in size. If you have noticed any weight gain or loss, this will affect the size of the stoma. Make sure your stoma appliance fits well around your stoma and is not too large, exposing the skin, which can then become sore when the stool sits on it.

Pancaking can cause skin soreness and irritation. This usually affects people with a colostomy. As stool exits the stoma, it remains stuck over the stoma and instead of the stool dropping to the bottom of the pouch as it should, it can stick to the opposite plastic lining of the pouch. Eventually, this causes sore skin under the baseplate or for the pouch to lift off and leak, which will also cause sore skin and irritation.

Damp peristomal skin may affect the integrity of the adhesive and allow the skin to become irritated. Make sure you gently dab the skin dry before applying the next stoma pouch.

It is less likely, but there is a possibility that you may be allergic to the flange on your stoma bag. If this is the case it may be worth speaking with your stoma nurse to discuss the possibility of an allergy and any alternatives which may be suitable for you.

What to do when the plastic of a stoma bag irritates your skin?

There are a plethora of stoma pouches available to try these days, so if you find you are experiencing skin irritation with your current pouch, speak with your stoma care nurse and she will guide you to trying another pouch that might be better for your skin.

Stoma pouches are made of plastic, they come in a variety of sizes and styles. They are available in a clear material to allow you to be able to see the content inside the bag or opaque pouches which are usually lined with a cloth material that hides the content of your pouch. Some brands feature opaque covers with a window or split seal to allow you to examine your stoma and the pouch contents freely. It is this plastic that can occasionally cause issues with irritation when the skin becomes warm, so try the opaque version of the pouch you are using which will help protect your skin.

Alternatively, try a stoma cover, which is made of soft cotton material and slips on top of your stoma pouch to provide protection to the skin. These can be made from a variety of patterned materials to your choosing and can be ordered via your Stoma Care Nurse or delivery company or can be bought directly from online stores.

How to care for irritated skin?

  • Use warm water to clean your stoma and the skin around it.
  • Avoid using soaps and baby wipes which often have perfumes and can cause the skin to become more irritated.
  • Always ensure you dry the skin well before applying your next stoma pouch. Dab gently with a clean towel or soft dry wipes or kitchen roll. Try to avoid rubbing the skin. Using a hairdryer on a low setting can help dry your skin.
  • Take note of the shape and size of your stoma every few months, to check your appliance fits well and is comfortable.
  • If you need to shave around your stoma, make sure you only do so with clean, warm water and avoid using shaving foams and creams.

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