Having lived with my urostomy for over two years I'm pretty confident in all aspects of ostomy life. My bag change routine is down to a science and nothing about my ostomy has held me back from doing all of my favorite activities. But I am always on the lookout for "hacks" or anyways to make ostomy ownership even easier.
Over the last two years, I've picked up a few tips and tricks through my own experimentation and from my fellow seasoned ostomates. Here are a few of my favorites.
Mucus is a never-ending part of urostomy life and even impacts those with neobladders and Indiana pouches.
The piece of intestine used to create our urinary diversions still acts like a typical intestine so it creates mucus. The amount varies widely from person to person. Even things like diet, medications, and hydration levels can change mucus output day-to-day.
There are some simple ways to reduce and thin mucus output. The first is the most straightforward, staying well hydrated!
Good water intake will keep your ileal conduit well flushed and will keep the mucus thin so it doesn't clog your pouch outlet.
The second tip is a little sneakier, vitamin C! I don't think any of us ostomates understand the exact science, but we all agree vitamin C reduces mucus output. This can be achieved via supplements, but simple orange juice or snacking on oranges works just as well. I notice a huge difference if I've missed out on my daily dose of vitamin c. Try adding a glass of juice to your morning or a vitamin C supplement at night.
See if it makes a difference for you.
There is a distinct odor that comes with urostomies. It is different from the type of odor that signals infection or some other problem. The odor is a combination of plastic breakdown in the ostomy bag due to exposure to urine, the general smell of the adhesive barrier wearing down. Plus, the fact that urine in a bag is not sterile. It should not be noticeable, but for most ostomates, we are highly sensitive and may feel self-conscious about any odor.
The best way to prevent odor is regular bag changes.
Ostomy bags, like clothing, will pick up odors as they are worn, so a good bag change routine can cut down on most unwanted smells.
Hydration is also a big part of odor prevention. Highly concentrated urine will smell. Keeping that water intake steady will reduce urine concentration thus, reducing the smell.
But, I recently learned a fabulous trick for those who struggle with smell or are sensitive to it - it goes back to vitamin c, but not in the way you think. Try dropping a vitamin c tab in your pouch before putting it on! It zaps any smell and does a great job of preventing odor as well!
Clearing skin irritation
All of us will deal with some sort of skin irritation from time to time. Whether it results from the barrier adhesive, leaks, or just weather changes - irritation can happen to anyone.
The easiest solution to irritation is giving your skin breaks from bag wearing. At least once a week I take a bag-free shower. Then post-shower I sit with a towel on my lap for a few minutes to allow my skin to air dry.
The handful of times my skin has been inflamed, these regular breaks cleared things up very quickly. I also treat my peristomal skin as gently as I do the skin on my face, by using scent-free cleansers and applying a very lightweight moisturizer to the skin. This keeps my skin healthy and makes for a solid base to prepare for bag adhesion.
Regular bag changes are also a big part of skin protection, so make sure you're not keeping a bag on for too long before changing.
But let's say you find yourself with itchy skin that isn't a rash, give your peristomal skin a few spritzes of Flonase! I picked this trick up from friends who have colostomies and deal with skin irritation more often. It works wonderfully for minor irritation.
Ostomy hacks and where to find more
There are so many simple ways to make ostomy life easier. More often than not it just takes multiple rounds of trial and error before you land on routines and tricks that work for you. Joining ostomy support groups and talking to fellow ostomates even if they don't have the same type of ostomy as you can reveal so many ways to manage just about any issue you can think of.
Connect with other ostomates and urinary diversion members!
Do friends and family ask about your bladder cancer?