When you’re a new ostomate, the inevitable questions about showering tend to come up: Can I get my appliance wet? Should I remove my appliance? Will water hurt my stoma? Fortunately, these questions are pretty easy to answer, but there are certain considerations to keep in mind.
In general, showering with your appliance shouldn’t be an issue, since both bags and wafers are designed to be waterproof, however, some ostomates may find the following to be annoying:
Bag Gets Wet
Not so much of a problem if you are used to wearing clear pouches since there’s little to no fabric on them, but things are a little different if you’re wearing an opaque, fabric-covered bag.
One of the gripes I have with Hollister pouches is that they absorb water and need to be thoroughly dried off after getting wet. By contrast, the Coloplast Sensura Mio’s do a great job repelling water and need no special aftercare when getting out of the shower.
If your bag gets wet, you can use a towel to pat it dry, but I prefer using a hairdryer instead. It takes maybe a minute to get things fully dry with a hairdryer and I find that helps to dry my wafer too. Just use common sense when you’re using a hairdryer since you will be burned if you’ve got the heat cranked up and have it pointed at your skin.
The Wafer Peels
This may or may not be an issue depending on the appliance you use, but I sometimes find that exposure to water causes my wafer to peel on the edges a bit. When this happens, I find that drying the wafer with a hairdryer while pressing down on the edges can get it to stick back onto my skin.
The Filter Gets Wet
Most bags with filters on them will include stickers that you’d place over your filter before having a shower.
When a filter gets wet it no longer works at removing gas from your pouch to prevent ballooning, so it’s important to protect it when you can.
These stickers will help to keep the filter dry, and they can be removed after your shower.
Use a Removable Shower Head!
Perhaps one of the most useful things to have in your bathroom, a removable shower head allows you to aim water in exactly the spots you want to get wet. This offers you control over simply standing under a stream of water, but it does require some maneuvering if the goal is to avoid your incision wounds or appliance.
Another bonus with using a shower head is that it allows you to quickly rinse your tub.
Make a DIY Cover
While not very pretty, practical or time-saving, you can fashion your own cover out of medical tape and plastic wrap (yup, like the stuff you use to keep food fresh).
Originally, I had used standard medical tape which didn’t work well because of the tiny holes in it. I later switched to using Hy-Tape, which seems to stick better to skin, and is waterproof, but it can still be difficult to handle.
One trick I learned was to prepare my tape before cutting the plastic wrap; I would simply cut four 6″ strips of Hy-Tape (usually 1″ wide) and hang them on a nearby rack that was within reach. I would then cut about 12″ of plastic wrap and lay it over my appliance (which I had folded in half to make smaller). I would then tape the top of the plastic wrap, making sure that most of the tape was on my skin, then I’d do the sides and bottom, making sure that there are no tunnels that water could get in from.
I did experiment with leaving the bottom uncovered to save time, but I found that the steam from my showers would get trapped under the cover and would still cause my appliance and wound to get wet, so I’d recommend covering all sides of the plastic wrap.
This system isn’t perfect, and it will take practice, but it’ll do a good enough job to keep your appliance and fresh incisions protected from water and moisture.
Try a Shower Cover
Not covered by insurance (at least not mine), these are commercial products that are designed to keep your appliance dry. They are worn much like an apron around your waist and can be dried off and reused.
I have tried one brand that features a pouch pocket that protects your entire pouch from getting wet. You can read the full review on that one HERE.
Take the Bag off and Go Completely Naked!
Many ostomates (including yours truly) love to have showers completely in the nude without a bag on. This can be so satisfying, but you do want to hop in during a time you know that your stoma will be inactive.
Having a shower when you’ve got an active stoma can be a messy affair, so I always have a few gauze pads at the ready to wrap around my stoma before and after I use the shower. If you happen to poop while in the shower, keep calm and rinse it off your skin and shower floor (that removable shower head will be quite handy at this point!). You can use bleach or a similar cleaner to disinfect the tub after you get out of the shower.
Keep in mind that water will not hurt your stoma, but you should avoid any shampoo, conditioner or soap that has extra moisturizer or it may leave a film on your skin that makes it difficult for your pouch to stick.
Special Considerations: Anal Wounds
When I had my rectum removed, I had showers with my wound VAC dressing still attached (only the nurse could remove it!), but with the VAC hose disconnected. When the VAC treatment was finally discontinued, and I still had an open wound, I didn’t have to pay any special attention to it.