When I was a new ostomate, I remember seeing sheets of stickers included with my ostomy bags and had no idea what they were for.
In this article, I’ll explain what those stickers are used for, when to use them, and how to use them effectively.
This video gives a great overview of filter stickers and you can see where and how they are applied to various ostomy pouches.
Filter stickers, which usually come on a sheet of wax paper, are usually included in boxes of filtered ostomy pouches or filtered one-piece appliances.
I say “usually” because some companies don’t include these stickers as not all bags require them.
They are often round with a small tab on one side, although some brands like B. Braun have larger stickers. Regardless, they all work the same way and can help ostomates in several situations.
What Are Filter Stickers Used For?
This is the million dollar question! Why include stickers in the first place?
Most instructions included in your box of ostomy pouches won’t really explain what the filter stickers are for.
Some manufacturers, like ConvaTec, do include instructions that only tell part of the story (but, kudos to them for trying!).
Surprisingly, there can actually be several uses for these stickers:
- To keep your filter dry.
- To prevent the “vacuum effect”.
- To keep smells out.
- To keep filters from leaking.
As you can see, filter stickers are meant to cover the filter on ostomy bags. If you’re wearing an appliance that does not have a filter, you won’t get these stickers in the box.
But even some appliances that do include filters may not come with stickers.
Brands like Hollister claim that their filters are water-resistant and don’t need stickers to protect them. In my experience, this seems to be true of the AF300 filters on the Hollister New Image bags, but it’s still nice to have stickers as they can be used for more than just keeping your filter dry.
How to Use Filter Stickers
There’s no mystery to applying filter stickers.
You’ll want to make sure that your ostomy pouch is dry and clean.
You can then remove one filter sticker from the sheet and gently place it over the center of your filter.
Make sure that you’ve covered the entire filter with the sticker or else it won’t be very effective.
When you no longer need to use the filter sticker, or if you want to replace it with a fresh one, simply remove and discard the old sticker and put a new one on.
When to Use Filter Stickers
Depending on why you’re using filter stickers, when to use them will vary.
Keeping Your Filter Dry
This is the primary reason why someone would use a filter sticker.
If you find filter stickers included in your box of pouches, assume that your filters need to be covered to protect them from getting wet!
Some ostomates will use these stickers just before entering a shower or swimming pool, while others will keep them on all the time. It’s totally up to when you put it on, but make sure it goes on before you get your pouch wet!
Most stickers will still maintain a good seal after being wet, so you can keep it on after you’ve dried your appliance.
Preventing the “vacuum effect”
Anyone who’s familiar with “pancaking” will know that often times it can happen when the walls of your appliance are stuck together.
This happens when the filter on your pouch works too well (sometimes they do!) and there’s a vacuum effect that makes it look like you’re trying to vacuum seal the contents of your pouch!
This vacuum effect can obviously be problematic, and there are ways to minimize it, including covering the filter with one of those stickers!
Ideally, you’ll want to cover your filter before this vacuum effect happens, although it’s perfectly fine to do so when you need to (not everyone has this problem).
If you’re using a filter sticker to prevent the vacuum effect, know that your filter will not be able to remove gas on its own, so your pouch may balloon as it fills up. Feel free to remove part or all of the filter sticker from time to time to help gas escape
Keeping Smells Out
The point of an ostomy bag filter is to not only release gas from your pouch but to deodorized any gas that does come out.
Unfortunately, as filters become soiled, they can also be a source of odor.
If you find that you’re not ready to change your appliance yet, but have a clogged filter (whether it smells already or not), you may decide to put a filter sticker over it until you change your bag.
You will need to keep the filter sticker on there or risk those odors coming out again.
Prevent Filter Leaks
As with the problem of smells I’ve mentioned above, if your filter becomes saturated with output, there’s a chance that it can also leak.
I’ve had this happen to me, and it can become a huge source of frustration as it can stain clothes when it happens.
Fortunately, placing a filter sticker over your soiled filter can help prevent leaks.
Keep in mind that if your filter is saturated, it won’t work anymore, so keep that filter sticker on until you’re ready to change your appliance.
- If you don’t have any filter stickers, most tape, including medical tape, can be used. Just be sure that you use a type that’s water-resistant and doesn’t leave too much of a sticky mess when you remove it.
- When you’ve got a filter sticker covering your filter, your ostomy bag may begin to fill with gas. Feel free to remove the sticker from time to time to help the gas to escape.
- Most manufacturers who do include filter stickers will often include more stickers than bags. Keep any extras you have and use them at a later time. You’ll never know when you need to use a bunch of filter stickers and it’s nice to have extra.
- I came across a unique filter sticker from a company called EuroTec out of the Netherlands. They offer “Gore-tex filter membranes”, which are meant to be put over your filter and offer protection from water while still allowing air from your pouch to escape – this is very similar to what Hollister already has on their appliance, but it can be handy to have on other appliances!
Filters on ostomy bags can often be hit or miss, but some of the problems that can sometimes come along with them can be mitigated by using filter stickers correctly.
Hopefully, this article has covered the subject of covering your filter well ;)