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An ostomy bag is frozen inside an ice cube, surrounded by a hairdryer, heating pad and adhesive cream.

Cold Weather Ostomy Hacks

There I stood at my bathroom counter, a third failed bag in the trash, and staring daggers at my stoma. Nothing I did could get my ostomy bag to stick. After all my usual careful prep, I'd press the bag to my stomach, and it would promptly flop off.

It was as if there was no adhesive. But then it clicked, and I realized 3 important things.

  1. It was 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
  2. We hate running the heat - gas heat can be miserably dry.
  3. I was attempting a "quick change," meaning I hadn't taken a steamy bagless shower prior. This meant my bathroom was a bit chilly, and my ostomy supplies were also chilly.

Why is this an issue? The hydrocolloid material that the ostomy bag wafer is made of specifically needs body heat for the adhesive to activate. Needless to say, a cold bag and a slightly warm tummy were not exactly "sticking."

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A heating pad, a hair dryer, and adhesive wafer

Usually, if just my edges were lifting, I would get my bag on and then sit with my heating pad to help everything settle. But that wasn't going to be an option if the bag would even remotely stick in the first place. So I decided to just stick the bag in my heating pad and see if that would help.

About 3 minutes later, my bag was warm, the hydrocolloid activated, and my bag stuck on perfectly. Now, whenever the weather is chilly, I stick my ostomy bag in my heating pad on low while I take a shower. By the time I'm done, everything is warm and ready to stick on.

If you don't have a heating pad or the time to let your pouch sit in one, your next best bet is to blast the wafer with a hair dryer. It works in a pinch. I've also been known to stick my pouch in my bra against my skin to warm up when I've gone on camping trips and need to make a change. The rule of thumb is simple, a warm adhesive wafer will stick on better than a cold one.

Dry, irritated winter skin

Cold weather, for me, means dry, irritated skin. This holds true for my peristomal skin as well.

During changes, I like to spread a dot of fragrance-free moisturizer around my peristomal skin and let that sit for a moment to absorb. When my skin is super dry and irritated, my bag either does not stick, or I deal with itchy skin under the wafer. I tend to skip stoma powder in the cold, dry months as well.

If you're still dealing with a bag that just won't stick, sometimes you have to break out the big guns and use an adhesive spray or paste.

When I was a new ostomate, I used adhesive spray every single change. It gave me a sense of security and confidence that my bag would stay stuck on. I don't tend to use the added adhesive anymore, but I keep it in my arsenal when I just can't get bags to stick or the edges want to lift.

Get those pouches warm

As much as we may have to worry about ostomy bags failing or lifting during the warm and sweaty months, we conversely have to deal with bags that don't even want to stick on when the temperatures drop. Just remember to stay patient, get those pouches warm, and stay moisturized!

What winter ostomy tips would you suggest to a new ostomate? Let us know in the comments below, or start a forum with your tips!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The BladderCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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