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Home > Health Library > Bowel Disease: Caring for Your Ostomy
Caring for your ostomy is an important part of maintaining your quality of life. You will need to:
You may also irrigate a colostomy, which helps you control when you eliminate waste. Irrigation requires your doctor's approval and guidance.
Wound, ostomy, and continence nurses (WOCNs) are available in some medical centers to help you learn how to care for your ostomy.
This topic covers care for a colostomy or ileostomy only. It does not cover care for a urostomy.
Proper care for your ostomy includes learning how to empty and replace the pouch and knowing what to watch for.
Some people choose to irrigate a colostomy. Irrigation is a procedure in which you stimulate and flush the intestines at a regular time to control when you eliminate solid wastes.
Note: If you are caring for an infant or child with an ostomy, the same information and procedures generally apply. But the ostomy pouch will be smaller and will most likely need to be replaced more often. Different adhesives may be used to attach the pouch because a child's skin is more sensitive than an adult's skin. Your wound, ostomy, and continence nurse (WOCN) will help you learn how to care for your child with an ostomy. Irrigation is not appropriate for children.
Ostomy pouches can be drainable or closed. A drainable pouch opens at one end to allow you to empty it. A closed pouch is disposed of and replaced with a new one as needed.
The pouch fills with waste and gas. It is best to empty the pouch when it is one-third to one-half full. This prevents the pouch from getting too full and heavy and pulling off. Many people routinely empty the pouch each time they urinate.
How often you change your ostomy pouch depends on many things, including the type of stoma you have and what you prefer. Some pouching systems are changed daily. Others are changed every 3 to 7 days. You may need to change your pouching system more often if there is a leak in the pouch or itching or burning under the barrier. The pouch itself is usually emptied or replaced after each bowel movement.
If the skin under your pouch is red, irritated, or itchy, you need to treat your skin. Follow these steps:
If you continue to have skin irritation, consult your wound, ostomy, and continence nurse (WOCN) or another nurse or a doctor.
Irrigating a colostomy allows more control over the elimination of waste, because it stimulates the intestine to function at a regular time. It is typically done at the same time every day or every other day. If you irrigate, you may need only a cover or pad over your stoma and may not need an ostomy pouch.
Children do not use irrigation.
Only a colostomy can be irrigated. You cannot irrigate an ileostomy.
To irrigate a colostomy, you need to have all of the following equipment and supplies ready, including:
A two-piece pouch system is usually used for irrigation. A nurse or doctor will show you how to irrigate your colostomy. The basic procedure is as follows.
Preparing the equipment
Here are some things to watch for. Call your doctor if:
Current as of:
August 12, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
Current as of: August 12, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
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