Managing Ostomy Emergencies and Accidents

When living with a stoma, sometimes the unthinkable happens: pouches or barriers leak, a pouch pops open, odors come through; an insurmountable number of possibilities all related to having an ostomy, just waiting to happen at any time.But it doesn’t happen to be this way. With proper care and planning, you can minimize or eliminate the possibilities of accidents occurring in the first place. And even if there is a leak, blowout, or odor, a little preparation will make crisis management easy.Probably the most common accidents are leaks, blowouts, and odors. Let’s describe these situations briefly, then we’ll discuss some tips to best manage these common predicaments affecting Ostomates:Leaks – A “leak” is when any contents of the stoma are compromised, leaking out through the Ostomy appliance. Leaks will almost always form at the point of least resistance, and in many cases get worse if not managed quickly. The most common leak points are under the barrier (due to weak or compromised adhesive), through pouch closures (drainable pouches), faulty pouching systems, or through punctures (rare to go unnoticed, but can still happen.)Blowouts – Blowouts can be a royal pain and happen for many of the same reasons that leaks can happen – over-filled pouches (usually from filling too quickly with air), poorly maintained pouching, external pressures on the pouch, and faulty appliances. The portion that pops open, like leaks, is usually where the least resistance is.Preventing Leaks and BlowoutsWith some simple steps, both of these scenarios can be avoided entirely:
Install a Pouch Release Valve – Valves such as the Osto-EZ-Vent or Filtrodor filters can be installed directly onto pouches to quickly release gas buildup in a pouch. This will help the pouch from getting too full too quickly, cut back on bathroom breaks to relieve contents, and of course, prevent leaks and blowouts from pressure buildup inside.
Drain or Change Regularly – Monitor the pouch contents and relieve it when it’s at least 1/3 full. Not quite there yet? If you have access to a bathroom and you’re not sure when you will again, take care of it then. And make sure you drain before bed to prevent any nighttime accidents. The rule of thumb is this: Always think ahead of your stoma!
Pack A Kit – A good kit should contain at least one full replacement and all the wipes, creams, odor sprays as well as the clean-up & disposal supplies you need for a full change. This kit will stay on you if you’re traveling, and keep a stationary one in the office or at school just in case.
Patch it up – If a situation arises and you do not have a kit handy for a full replacement, you’ll need to patch up the leak the best you can. Find whatever you can (a napkin, paper towel, a band-aid, duct tape) that can be used to seal off the leak. It’s hardly a good fix, but it can buy you extra time to get to a bathroom or to a private place to take care of it.
Wear the Right Clothes – For active folks, if you’re moving a lot you could increase friction against the baseplate and/or pouch, in the least causing some skin irritation or at worst causing a leak to form through the adhesives. Wearing looser clothes can help alleviate this problem.
Eat Right – Know how nutrition affects your ostomy. All foods will digest differently, and this will affect how and when your pouches fill. For instance, drinking a lot of beer and eating a big meal before bed may not be the best idea – you may end up waking up to empty your pouch at least once or twice through the night!
Carry a Spray – For odors, get something strong enough to neutralize the odors instantly, not just mask them. Medi-Aire Odor Eliminator and Odor Assassin are both great options to eliminate odor.
Devrom Tablets – These tablets are called “Internal Deodorant”, which helps minimize odors of pouch contents. Great for odors.
Lastly, if you’re still having problems with leaks, blowouts, or odors, try changing your products. Everyone’s stoma is a little different, so finding the right products is key. Sometimes the Ostomy supplies you have may not be giving you the proper care.For instance, if you have a flush or retracted stoma (in relation to the skin surface), using a standard barrier may cause contents to leak under the barrier and weaken the adhesive. But a convex barrier with a little bend towards the middle could be enough to prevent this from happening. There are some situations where you would prefer to use a drainable pouch and some situations where a more discreet, disposable closed pouch is preferred.So, if you are not satisfied with your Ostomy appliances, do not be afraid to experiment with new products – you’ll soon discover what you’ve been missing out on!

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