- 8 Ostomy Leak Prevention Tips
8 Ostomy Leak Prevention Tips
"My name is Collin Jarvis, and I've had an ileostomy since 2014. I'm an extremely active person, and during my time with an ostomy, I've found a number of different strategies that help me to reduce the likelihood of getting a leak with my ostomy. Here are 8 of the ones that work best!"
1. Wear a Stealth Belt
Wearing a Stealth Belt can help to prevent leaks from happening with your ostomy.
They are designed to hold the weight of the bag as it fills so that the appliance isn’t reliant on the adhesive to hold up the extra weight of the bag as it fills.
Stealth Belts are also made so that the bottom layer applies a gentle pressure to the adhesive around the flange to lessen the likelihood that a leak will occur.
As an additional side benefit, the Stealth Belt can work as an excellent failsafe for those times where leaks do occur, holding the bag against the body until you are able to get somewhere that you can change out the damaged appliance.
Video about how Stealth Belt specifically can help with leak prevention:
2. Plan the timing of your meals
I’ve found that keeping track of how your digestion works is also an effective technique for reducing the chances of a leak. For instance, I generally will have output from my stoma 30-45 mins after I eat anything. This is because eating starts up the digestion system, and the food from the meal that I ate prior will then get passed through shortly after the meal that I am currently eating.
Being armed with this knowledge allows me to plan when to eat in accordance with what I have going on. This is useful for situations where I am going somewhere that I am unsure of the bathroom situation (public events) but particularly for knowing when to eat before going to bed. I make sure that I eat my last meal/snack of the day at least 2 hours before going to bed so that the output I get while sleeping is kept to a minimum. Using this strategy has been quite effective, and I rarely get leaks at night.
3. Empty your bag regularly (air too!)
Normally it is recommended to empty the bag at about the 1/3rd of the way full point, and doing so will help reduce the chance of leaks. This is especially important when it comes to gas as well, because an appliance that is full of gas will put a lot of additional strain on the adhesive and greatly increase the chances of a leak.
If you find that your bag fills up with air, I would recommend that you go to a bathroom and ‘burp’ the bag, or let out the excess air. For more in-depth explanation of how to deal with excess gas, check out this awesome article by our friend Eric at Vegan Ostomy:Here
4. Make sure your appliance opening is sized appropriately for your stoma
Should have minimal gaps between the stoma and the hole in the appliance which it goes through. If you get your appliance pre-cut, make sure to check and see that there isn’t more than about 1cm of space between the edge of the adhesive and the stoma itself. If there is more space there, you may want to get a smaller hole size, or start manually cutting your appliance to match the size and shape of your stoma.
5. Take good care of your skin
Cleaning the skin is critical. Beyond just being more comfortable from having non-irritated skin, the adhesives of the appliances will stick better to healthy skin. Make sure that every time you change your bag that you spend some time gently scrubbing the skin around the stoma to remove old adhesive residue, and dead skin. I recommend taking showers with no appliance on when it is time to change so the skin around your stoma can be cleaned thoroughly and it has more time to ‘breathe’ before being covered up with an appliance again.
Note for the showering without an ostomy: use the timing of your meals to do this so you don't have output while showering. If you do have output while showering, don't worry! just wash it down the drain - I promise it's not a big deal. It feels amazing to have the bag off in the shower for a little while too!
Hair removal should also be a part of the skin care process as well. If you grow hair under where the appliance sits, it is best to carefully shave that area, as hair can make it more challenging for the adhesive to stay attached.
Change appliances regularly - don’t push your limits just because you can. If you *think* you can get to 6 days per bag, make it a habit to change in 5. Your skin will thank you!
6. Try different appliances and adhesives
Try out a bunch of different options. Most companies will give you free samples to try, so take advantage of that! What works for some people doesn’t work for everyone, and just because something is working o.k. for you now, doesn’t mean that there isn’t something even better out there that you haven’t tried yet. If you’re like me and going to have this ostomy for life, it's worth doing these tests to find your best combination.
One example ties back to when I was in New Zealand - I used the safe n simple skin barrier wipes because I was new to having an ostomy and thought it would help me. I later found out that I happened to be allergic to one of their ingredients, and switching it out for a different option solved my problem. Inversely, I know many people who use that particular product and swear by it - that's why it's important to test things out for yourself! You never know what might work for your particular situation.
7. Barrier Rings
I’ve found that barrier rings work very well for me. My stoma often recedes into my stomach while it is having output, and a well placed barrier ring adds to the convexity of the appliance that I use. With the additional pressure from the Stealth Belt, I’ve found that adding in a barrier ring to my appliance has almost completely eliminated leaks from my life! (p.s. it took me 3 years of having an ostomy before I even tried one where I was getting a leak per week!)
8. Maintain good posture and functional movement
This is one of my absolute favorite things to talk to people with ostomies about because it is just so important for so many more reasons than simply leak prevention, and that is to have good posture. When you ton your appliance, you are normally standing straight up, looking in a mirror. The appliance gets put onto the skin and it lays flat. Then, if you are like many people, you go and sit down and hunched forward. This causes your body to ‘fold’ right where the ostomy is and it puts a lot of pressure on the adhesive that can make it come lose and cause leaks. By sitting and standing with good posture, the adhesive can do its job better and stay flat on your abdomen.