Ostomy Care: Preventing Skin Irritation Around the Stoma

One of the more common issues that ostomates face is skin irritation. While it is annoying and often times itchy or painful, it is also preventable and manageable. Remembering that your skin is under stress from adhesives, abrasion, and various chemicals is paramount. We’ve done our best to collect information on how to keep your skin healthy.

Your Ostomy Gear:

Like shoes, the better the fit, the more comfortable and better your equipment will perform. Not all ostomy devices are the same and when you find the right one, you will also find that your skin will appreciate it. There are plenty of recourse available. A healthcare provider, ostomy nurse, or a call to the UOAA can answer many of your questions and concerns.  Below are a few simple things that we have learned in our years of helping ostomates:

  1. When applying your skin barrier, be sure to keep your skin smooth in order to prevent wrinkles. Wrinkles lead to gaps in the barrier and eventually leakage which will irritate the skin.
  2. Monitor the skin surrounding the pouching system. Look closely through a mirror all around the stoma. As soon as irritation begins clean the skin around the stoma with water alone, using a cotton wipe. If  a cleanser is used, it should be thoroughly rinsed away. Avoid oily and perfumed products.
  3. Shave hairy areas about once a week, using a clean razor to ensure the best possible wafer adhesion.
  4. A full pouch will become heavy and pull on the wafer which will either result in a leak or stress the skin.
  5. When extra support or waterproofing is needed many nurses recommend the 1.5 inch Hy-Tape to boarder the wafer as it is waterproof, has zinc-oxide to sooth the skin, and removes very gently.

Removing the Ostomy Pouch:

It is important to remember the the adhesive on the skin barrier is strong, so a gentle touch is needed in order to avoid damaging the skin.

  1. Loosen edges and push down the skin very gently.
  2. Slowly peel away the barrier starting at the top so that any liquid will drain into the pouch.
  3. Slow and steady is the key. If adhesive remover is needed it is important to use it sparingly and when done use a clean towel with soap and water to remove the chemicals.

Skin Cleaning

Warm water and a mild soap on either a soft paper towel or washcloth are usually all that is needed to ensure an adequately clean skin surface. It is important to remember your skin is under continuous stress from the adhesives, abrasion, weight, and whatever chemicals you are using.

  1. Use an oil free, mild, and non-scented soap.
  2. Rinse thoroughly before reattaching the pouching system. Soap residue can hinder the way the pouch connects to the body.
  3. Avoid alcohol based cleaners or wipes as they dry out the skin.
  4. Dry, clean skin will ensure a good surface for sticking. Dab the area with a soft towel and if possible, use a hair dryer on low heat.

When traveling or during times of extreme weather you may want to read our article on Ostomy Securement & Fluctuating Weather. If your skin becomes irritated, please be sure to contact your physician or an ostomy nurse. They can advise on what would be best.

If you need extra support while wearing your ostomy device or if you want to swim or bath and require waterproofing and support, please Click here to try a sample of Hy-Tape.