Summertime Ostomy Management
Last updated: August 2022
Summer has arrived in the southern United States, and the weather is sweltering. It's not unusual for the heat indexes here to reach the triple digits and this brings along a new set of challenges for ostomates.
Protecting your peristomal skin
A top priority for me is skin health when the temperature rises.
Warm weather can bring about a whole host of skin irritation due to heat and moisture. It is very easy for your peristomal skin and the skin just surrounding your adhesive wafer to stay damp or sweaty during the summer months, especially if you enjoy time in the water.
During the summer I take care to make sure my bag is completely dry as well as the surrounding skin after any time in the water or after bathing. Making sure everything is dry before dressing ensures your skin isn't staying damp and this can prevent most irritation. In the warmer months, I also use fewer products during bag changes, which allows my skin to breathe and helps ensure a good bag stick.
Speaking of bag changes, depending on what activities I'm participating in, or even if it's just been an extra hot day, I may change my bag more frequently than usual. Itchiness under my wafer can often be due to sweat being trapped underneath and it's easier to just slap on a new bag, than power through the discomfort.
Dressing for the weather
Now let's talk about summer dressing with an ostomy.
I like to embrace lighter fabrics and ditch any support belts or compressive undergarments. In the heat, these garments can encourage sweating and chafing. Cotton is definitely your best friend for keeping everything dry and cool around your ostomy. This is also the time of year that I am keenly aware of sun exposure.
If I am wearing a bikini or any clothing that exposes my bag, I make sure I put high SPF sunscreen on my stomach and all the way to the edges of my adhesive wafer. This may also be a good time to switch to an opaque bag or use a bag cover if you typically wear clear bags. Protect that stoma from sun exposure!
With heat, sun, and sweat, the summertime means making hydrating more important than ever. I always keep an insulated water bottle with me wherever I go, even if it's a short trip to the grocery store.
Where I live, the afternoon temperatures can easily reach the upper 90s to 100 degrees (32-37 degrees Celsius)! A simple walk to the car can leave me drenched in sweat. So constant access to water is a must! If I am doing something active outside like gardening or swimming, I like to add in electrolyte drinks as well to make up for any hydration lost through sweat.
Enjoy your summer
As someone who spent most of their life in South Florida, I am no stranger to managing life under the sweltering sun. But as a cancer patient and ostomate, I am now more aware of staying safe, comfortable, and hydrated while enjoying all that summer brings.
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