Colostomy Questions and Answers

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 20, 2023
3 min read

A colostomy takes time to get used to. These questions and answers will help.

Schedule routine colostomy pouch empyting before breakfast or in the evening before going to bed, when your body is less busy with digestion.

Plan regular colostomy pouch changes every 3-5 days. Date the tape on the pouch or mark your calendar to remind you when the pouch was last changed.

Change the pouch promptly if you feel itching or burning on the skin around the stoma (where the colostomy enters your body). These sensations may be signs of a leak.

The stoma and surrounding skin needs to be clean, just like the rest of the body. You don’t have to use sterile materials to cleanse this area.

Trim body hair around the stomal area with blunt-end scissors or an electric razor.

Don't use oils or ointments on the skin around your stoma. They may prevent the pouch from sticking to your skin.

You may shower or bathe with the colostomy pouch on or off. But keep in mind that your body may keep eliminating waste during that time.

You can replace, air dry or blow-dry (with a hair dryer on a low setting) the pouch tape after you get out of the shower or bath.

You can wear stretch underwear to support the colostomy pouch during physical activity. Wear your pouch inside the underwear.

Pouch covers add to your comfort and help absorb perspiration.

Yes, if it’s more than 10-15 pounds. It could change the fit of your colostomy pouch or alter the wearing time of the pouching system.

Tell your surgeon or enterostomal therapy (ET) nurse if weight changes start to become a problem.

Always carry a spare colostomy pouch with you in case you have unexpected problems.

Keep extra closure clips with you in case yours drops or breaks. You can use a rubber band or binder clip in an emergency.

Test different products at home on days when you are near your own bathroom.

Always carry your medical supplies with you. Don’t check them with your luggage in case they become lost, delayed, or damaged.

Take twice the amount of equipment than you usually need so that you are prepared for an emergency.

Carry a list of retailers and United Ostomy Association (UOA) chapters in your travel case. They are a good resource if you need help while traveling.

If you think you might need an ET nurse while you’re away from home, check with the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN).

When you return to your clinic or hospital, always bring two changes of ostomy supplies with you.

Carry identification (in the form of a bracelet, necklace, or wallet card) specifying your particular ostomy.

Don’t use products that are not specifically made for ostomy use.

When you order ostomy equipment:

  1. Allow enough time for delivery when you order it.
  2. Re-measure your stoma before ordering pre-cut pouches during the first 6 months.
  3. Always keep an extra 2-week supply of pouch equipment. There is no good substitution for the products if you should run out.
  4. Keep a list of your equipment along with the order numbers, manufacturers, and sources of supply. Give a duplicate of this list to a family member or friend in case their help is needed in an emergency.
  5. Check several retailers for the best equipment prices. Some suppliers will help you with Medicare and insurance forms.
  6. Consider how long you wear your pouch when calculating the cost of your equipment.

It’s a good idea to check in if you have:

  • Leakage problems
  • Skin irritation in the area of your pouch
  • Trouble finding places to buy your supplies
  • Problems finding a support group
  • Questions about becoming pregnant
  • Relationship problems due to the colostomy
  • Any other questions or concerns about your colostomy