Skip to Content
Home > Wellness Resources > Health Library > Bowel Disease: Caring for Your Ostomy
Caring for your
ostomy is an important part of maintaining your
quality of life. You will need to:
You may also
irrigate a colostomy, which helps you control when you
eliminate waste. Irrigation requires your doctor's approval and
Wound, ostomy, and continence nurses (WOCNs) are
available in some medical centers to help you learn how to care for your
This topic covers care for a
colostomy or ileostomy only. It does not cover care
Proper care for your
ostomy includes learning how to empty and replace the pouch and knowing what to watch for.
Some people choose
irrigate a colostomy. Irrigation is a procedure in
which you stimulate and flush the intestines at a regular time to control when
you eliminate solid wastes.
Note: If you are caring for an infant or child
with an ostomy, the same information and procedures generally apply. But the
ostomy pouch will be smaller and will most likely need to be replaced more often.
Different adhesives may be used to attach the pouch because a child's skin is
more sensitive than an adult's skin. Your wound, ostomy, and continence nurse
(WOCN) will help you learn how to care for your child with an ostomy.
Irrigation is not appropriate for children.
Ostomy pouches can be
drainable or closed. A drainable pouch opens at one end to allow you to empty
it. A closed pouch is disposed of and replaced with a new one as needed.
The pouch fills with waste and gas. It is best to empty the pouch
when it is one-third to one-half full. This prevents the pouch from getting too
full and heavy and pulling off. Many people routinely empty the pouch each time
How often you change your ostomy pouch depends on many things, including the type of stoma you have and what you prefer. Some pouching systems are changed daily. Others are changed every 3 to 7 days. You may need to change your pouching system more often if there is a leak in the pouch or
itching or burning under the barrier. The pouch itself is usually emptied or replaced
after each bowel movement.
If the skin under your pouch is red, irritated, or itchy,
you need to treat your skin. Follow these steps:
If you continue to have skin irritation, consult your
wound, ostomy, and continence nurse (WOCN) or another nurse or a doctor.
Irrigating a colostomy
allows more control over the elimination of waste, because it stimulates the
intestine to function at a regular time. It is typically done at the same time
every day or every other day. If you irrigate, you may need only a cover or pad
over your stoma and may not need an ostomy pouch.
Children do not
Only a colostomy can be irrigated. You cannot
irrigate an ileostomy.
To irrigate a colostomy, you need to have
all of the following equipment and supplies ready, including:
A two-piece pouch system is usually used for
irrigation. A nurse or doctor will show you how to irrigate your colostomy. The
basic procedure is as follows.
Here are some things to watch for. Call your doctor if:
Other Works Consulted
Deitz D, Gates J (2010). Basic ostomy management, part 1. Nursing, 40(2): 61–62.
Deitz D, Gates J (2010). Basic ostomy management, part 2. Nursing, 40(5): 62–63.
October 8, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.