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Bathing and showering with an ostomy

One of the first things many new ostomates question is the bath/shower situation.

“Can I get the bag wet?”

“Can I still have a bath with a bag?”

All being pretty common questions. It’s come to my attention that we don’t always ask the right questions. There are many things I learnt years after having my first stoma reversed, that it would have been good to know at the time!

You can bath or shower with your bag on or off

It really is just personal preference. If you have a well behaved stoma, that doesn’t function at certain times of the day, it does make it easier to have a bath without your bag on.

I personally don’t have a well behaved stoma, so I wouldn’t dare risk it. I do shower without my bag on, so that I can feel super clean and have a residue free surface to pop my bag back on to.

Yes, sometimes I poo in the shower! It doesn’t really bother me, because it just washes away down the drain, and I am in the perfect place to keep cleaning myself if I need to! That said, it’s not something everyone is comfortable with.

I always have everything I need ready to go for when I get out of the shower. I also have a dry wipe just behind the shower curtain, so I can prevent any accidents on the floor while I dry myself off. I just pat the skin around my stoma dry, pop on a fresh seal and bag, and then I move on to my moisturising and deodorant routine.

What to consider if you’re having a bag free bath or shower

If you’re bagless, then your peristomal skin (the skin just around your stoma) is exposed. Here’s a few things you need to consider:

  • Fragrances or perfumes can cause irritation to the sensitive skin around your stoma, which may lead to dry, itchy, or even sore skin.
  • Moisturisers or oils in washes, soaks, shampoo, and conditioners can prevent the baseplate from adhering properly.
  • You will need to rinse and dry the peristomal skin thoroughly before attaching a fresh bag.

I actually use a feminine hygiene wash all over my body, which is free from perfumes and oils. I am also careful when washing shampoo and conditioner out of my hair, that it doesn’t roll down my front.

For me, showers are morning things, and baths are to relax in of an evening. If I’ve showered in the morning, but feel I need a relaxing bath in the evening, I keep the same bag on and just dry it after.

Drying your bag after a bath or shower

There are lots of different stoma bags available, which means that yours may not act like mine once it’s wet. Some are really easy to dry, and they have been designed with that in mind as a benefit. The baseplates on some bags may absorb the water much more quickly, which can lead to the edges of the baseplate becoming thicker, and even a little slimy. Whichever bag it is, it is up to you decide whether you want to change after showering or bathing. If your bag is suitable for more extended wear time, there are things that you can do so that you don’t have to change afterwards. If the edge of your bag withstands being wet with no issues, then that’s great. Nothing needs doing there! If not, you can always wear flange extenders in the shower or bath to protect the edges of your baseplate and remove them after. Just wiping any moisture from around the edges of the baseplate and then using a hairdryer on a low heat can dry it out nicely. You can also use a hairdryer on the same setting to actually dry the bag itself.

Don’t forget to enjoy it!

Having an additional routine for bathing and showering can sometimes be an annoyance. On occasion, I wish that I could just get out of the shower, dry myself off, and throw on some clothes! The reality is that it probably takes me less than a minute to put on my seal and bag. The process has gotten much quicker as time has passed. So I think it really is just about how grumpy and tired I am that morning! Other times, I find myself irritated because I’m stuck in the shower, because my stoma became really active towards the end. If this sounds like you, don’t worry about it. It’s normal, and we are allowed to not LOVE our stoma now and then.

The rest of the time, enjoy the feeling of clean, or calm, or steam, or whatever else you might appreciate during bath or shower time. Sometimes, it’s the only part of my day where I feel like I am in the present moment, and not focusing on what else I have to today!

About the advice and opinions of our bloggers

We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience & background. Some of the opinions expressed may not reflect the views of Fittleworth or your NHS professional.

It goes without saying, but this is not clinical advice. Each person will have an individual set of medical factors to consider. So please do not to make significant changes to your diet, exercise or treatments before consulting with a NHS professional.

Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 19, Picture of author - Saharaafter just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum, and had her first ileostomy. A turbulent journey followed; a multitude of treatments, complications, seven surgeries, a failed J-Pouch, and three ileostomies later, she is living with a permanent stoma and is a pro-active IBD and ostomy advocate. 

Sahara joined the online IBD and ostomy community in 2014, and it very quickly became apparent to her that whilst awareness is important, even more important than that is providing support to others as they navigate the stormy waters of life with IBD, or an ostomy.

She runs #IBDSuperHeroes fundraising and awareness campaign, and the Facebook support group. She is a blogger for InflammatortyBowelDisease.net and an IBD Patient Consultant for merakoi – bridging the gap between patients and healthcare. She gets involved with research whenever she can, and is a volunteer for Cure Crohn’s Colitis, where she donates her time and expertise in social media marketing and content creation.