Colostomies and ileostomies are ways to let stool leave the body when it cannot go through the rectum and anus. The opening made is called a stoma. Taking proper care of the stoma, skin, and pouch will help prevent infection and other problems.
Have all of your supplies ready. Clean and change your pouch and stoma on a regular schedule. Your care team will tell you how often you need to do this.
The skin of the stoma has no feeling, so you will not know when stool passes through it. Check the pouch throughout the day. Empty the pouch every time it is 1/3 to 1/2 full. You may find it easier to empty their pouch after passing urine.
To clean out the pouch:
Replace the pouch every 3 to 4 days (2 to 3 days for a child).
To replace the pouch:
Q. Do I need to remove the ostomy pouch when I shower?
A. No. You can even swim wearing the ostomy pouch.
Q. Does the ostomy smell?
A. You will notice little or no smell if you clean and change the pouch often. There are deodorizing solutions you can use if you find there is a smell.
Q. What do I do if my organs bulge through the belly wall or out of the stoma?
A. This is not an emergency, but you will need to call your doctor.
Q. Do I need to change my diet?
A. Potatoes, pasta, creamy peanut butter, and bananas will help thicken the stool. You may want to limit or stay away from foods that cause gas. Common ones are beans, cabbage, eggs, or fish. Other foods that can cause problems are popcorn, nuts, or foods with skin or seeds.
For an ileostomy, drink at least 64 ounces (almost 2 liters) of water each day to prevent constipation.
Contact your doctor if at any time you:
Possible mishaps to watch out for:
Signs of dehydration:
United Ostomy Associations of America
Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Ostomy Canada Society
Caring for a colostomy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/ostomies/colostomy/management.html. Accessed March 29, 2021.
Caring for an ileostomy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/ostomies/ileostomy/management.html. Accessed March 29, 2021.
Caring for your ostomy. Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario website. Available at: https://rnao.ca/bpg/fact-sheets/caring-your-ostomy. Accessed March 29, 2021.
Colostomy guide. United Ostomy Associations of America website. Available at: https://www.ostomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ColostomyGuide.pdf. Accessed March 29, 2021.
Ileostomy guide. United Ostomy Associations of America website. Available at: https://www.ostomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/IleostomyGuide.pdf. Accessed March 29, 2021.
Ostomy care: An overview. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Accessed March 29, 2021.
Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN Last Updated: 3/29/2021