What is a Stoma Guard?
Stoma guards are most commonly used to protect a stoma from an impact. They are often used by ostomates who play sports or work around equipment that could hit their stomach area, but can also be helpful when you’re around energetic kids or large dogs.
Stoma Guards can also be used to enhance clothing options, as you will discover further in the article.
- Stoma guards offer hard protection from direct impact.
- Stoma guards often apply gentle pressure on the appliance, which can enhance support.
- They can be used during sports or other physical activities without reducing mobility (this depends on the size of the guard).
- Stoma guards can be used to protect a stoma from pant belts, making it possible to wear your appliance under your clothing.
- Can work well as a seatbelt guard.
- Most stoma guards are bulky and can be uncomfortable to wear.
- Stoma guards tend to be quite expensive.
- Depending on the style, stoma guards may limit the capacity of your ostomy bag.
- Most stoma guards require some kind of support belt or accessory belt to keep them secure. This may reduce comfort for some people.
- Certain styles won’t protect from a “sliding impact” and are better for direct impact protection.
- For ostomates who have thicker output, some guards may not allow stool to reach the bottom of the bag, which could result in pancaking or leaks.
How Stoma Guards are Typically Sold
Stoma guards are available in many styles and shapes.
Some are flat designs, while others are rounded. The area they take up on your abdomen can also vary from brand to brand.
In most cases, when purchasing a guard, you’ll need to pay attention to the following:
- Do they cover only the stoma or flange area, or do they extend down towards the middle of the bag? Larger guards (the ones that come down lower) may be better if your goal is to wear your appliance under your clothing.
- What kind of belt do they use and is it adjustable? This will be important to know so that you can get the best and most comfortable fit possible.
- Does it offer enough clearance for your output? Low-profile guards may not give your output enough room to fall to the bottom of your bag. People who have a urostomy or ileostomy may not have to worry about this as much as colostomates.
- How adjustable are they? Some guards offer swappable padding to adjust the depth of the guard. Others offer belt guides that allow you to fine tune the placement of the guard over your stoma.
- Will you be wearing it with a one-piece or two-piece appliance? Some guards are designed to fit around the flange of a 2pc system and may not work very well on a 1pc.
Stoma guards can be quite expensive, with many of them costing $100 or more (one brand sells guards for $300+!). Unfortunately, most insurance companies that I know of will not cover stoma guards.
Consider a stoma guard to be a long-term investment. They are often built to last many years, and if you play any sports, then it’s just part of the equipment.
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How to Use a Stoma Guard
In every case, you are going to place the stoma guard over your appliance (with your stoma in the center of the guard).
All stoma guards can be worn while your appliance is above your belt line, but some styles will allow you to wear pants over them. This can be a big advantage for ostomates who are having difficulties wearing their appliance under their belt line.
Depending on the style of guard you’re using, there may be several ways to wear it.
Many large guards will come with their own belt. These tend to be a custom size, but nearly all will offer some elasticity and the ability to adjust the tension to a certain extent.
Guards that come with their belt tend to offer the best support at the cost of being bulky. Some included belts can be quite thick and may be uncomfortable for some users.
An example of a guard that includes a belt is the StomaShield.
Medium and small guards usually require an accessory belt be worn.
This may present a challenge as not all accessory belts fit all guards the same way – you may need to ask the guard’s manufacturer to recommend an accessory belt that’s compatible with their guard.
One thing I’ve found with using third-party belts on guards is that sometimes the belt will unhook from the guard when you aren’t expecting it, which can be a problem!
An example of a guard that uses third-party belts is the Ostomy Resolutions Guard.
There is one unique stoma guard, called the StomaDome, that’s secured differently from the other guards.
The StomaDome attaches to a Velcro crescent that goes on your bag first. This style is minimalist compared to the guards that need belts, but I consider it a lite-duty guard because it’s not as secure as the others and tends to slide around.
Another product that uses velcro (in a slightly different way than the StomaDome) is the Stoma Protector, but it also relies on a stoma wrap to keep it in place.
Some guards, like the Ostomy Resolutions Guard allow you to use a belt or another accessory to hold it in place. I’ve worn this style of guard with ostomy wraps and support belts (like the StealthBelt)
Tips When Using Stoma Guards
These tips have been gathered through years of experience using various stoma guards.
- There is no “perfect” guard, but medium-sized guards tend to offer the best of both worlds when it comes to protection and comfort.
- If your goal is to wear a guard under your pants, go with a flat style (like the StomaShield).
- If you notice pressure under the guard as your output is trying to exit your stoma, loosen the guard or adjust it so there’s more room under there. I’ve had blowouts when my guard has restricted my flow.
- Try different accessory belts (if your guard requires a third-party belt) as not all belts will work with all guards.
- Don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer if you have questions about which style (or size) is most appropriate for your needs.
Alternatives to Stoma Guards
There aren’t many alternatives to wearing a stoma guard if your goal is protection.
If you’re wearing a guard for fashion, you may be able to achieve a similar result by using a support belt. When I want to tuck in my shirt and I don’t have a guard, I’ll usually wear my appliance sideways with a support belt.
The company StealthBelt, who offers support belts, has a style called their Hybrid belt that features a thick layer of neoprene on the front of the belt. This can offer some protection from impact, but not nearly as much as a stoma guard can.
For clothing examples while wearing a stoma guard, check out my clothing guide for men.
Don’t forget to check out my reviews on stoma guards HERE.