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Ostomy Care: Care Instructions

A colostomy stoma

Your Care Instructions

When a part of your intestine doesn't work as it should, a doctor can do surgery to make an opening in your belly and bring a part of your intestine to the surface of your skin. This opening is called an ostomy. There are two types. A colostomy is an ostomy of the colon. An ileostomy is an ostomy of the small intestine.

With an ostomy, waste no longer leaves your body from your anus. It leaves your body through the part of your intestine at the ostomy opening. This part of the intestine is called the stoma.

There's no muscle around the stoma. So you can't control when waste or gas leaves your body. Now your waste automatically goes from the stoma into a plastic bag (pouch) around the stoma. This pouch will block the smell of the waste. It can't be seen when you are wearing clothes.

You can learn to take care of your ostomy. Good care can make living with a stoma easier. It can help keep a good seal between the skin and the pouch. This can prevent your skin from getting irritated.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If the skin under your pouch is red, irritated, or itchy, you need to treat your skin. Follow these steps:
    • Gently remove the pouch.
    • Clean the skin under the pouch with water.
    • Dry the skin.
    • Sprinkle ostomy powder on the skin. Then gently wipe off the extra powder.
    • Reattach or replace the pouch.
  • If you continue to have skin irritation, talk to your ostomy nurse.
  • Follow all instructions from your ostomy nurse.
  • Empty and replace your ostomy pouch as often as your nurse recommends.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are vomiting.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have a fever.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your stoma turns pale or changes colour.
  • Your stoma swells or bleeds.
  • You have little or no waste going into your pouch.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.