If you live in a country that has long, cold winters, warmer weather is probably something you look forward to experiencing for at least a few months during the summer. While many of us may enjoy some fun in the sun, it brings along a few extra challenges that I’d like to cover in this article.
DISCLAIMER: Always seek the advice of a stoma nurse or doctor before changing your routine around. You may have other health concerns that could affect how your body reacts in the heat and sun of summer.
Perhaps one of the most common concerns for an ileostomate is the risk of dehydration, and it gets harder to tackle hydration in the summer heat. I’ve already written extensively about some practical ways to keep hydrated, which you can find HERE, but here are more tips specific to warmer weather:
- The more you sweat, the more fluids you will need. Common sense would suggest that you should be replacing the fluids you’re losing, but if you aren’t used to sweating a lot then you may underestimate the amount you need. The easiest way to overcome this is simply to add more liquids to your daily goal, but it also helps to consume more water-rich foods, which as a bonus, will help to cool you down during the summer. My favorites during the hot months are watermelon, honeydew melon, grapes, cucumber, and mangoes.
- Find ways to keep cool. Even if it means using the air conditioning or seeking shade, finding ways to reduce direct exposure to the sun and heat will help to combat dehydration.
- Don’t be afraid to use electrolytes. Water isn’t the best way to stay hydrated as it has no electrolytes. If you have an ostomy, specifically an ileostomy, then you’ll benefit from drinking fluids that contain added electrolytes. These may include commercial or home-made oral rehydration solutions, sports drinks, vegetable juice or vegetable broth. Ask your doctor for goals when it comes to electrolytes as you do want to make sure you’re getting ENOUGH (not too much, not too little).
- Know your limit. I remember wanting to do everything during the first summer after having my ostomy. Who doesn’t when you’ve been sick for so long and finally feel normal again? But I have a limit, and if I go beyond it, I end up feeling like garbage! Remember to pace yourself, especially if you’re coming back from a long-standing illness or recent surgery.
Sweating and Your Ostomy Appliance
Sweating serves several important functions, but any ostomate will tell you that sweat around their appliance makes for an uncomfortable situation. Sweat and moisture around your bag not only feels uncomfortable, but it can also lead to skin issues like yeast or fungal infections. In addition to that (like you needed more things to worry about), sweat under your wafer can shorten your wear-time and may lead to leaks.
So what’s an ostomate to do? There are a few points to note, but it’s important to remember that we are all unique and you may need to investigate ways to reduce issues related to sweat.
- Get to an ideal weight. Like it or not, your weight plays a factor in how comfortable you feel in the heat and how much you sweat. The more insulation you’re carrying, the hotter you will feel.
- The clothes you wear can make a difference! I love cotton, and there’s probably a reason: I feel cooler and more comfortable wearing it. Yes, I’ve tried those high-end sports tee’s that promise to keep me as cool as a Canadian hockey rink and as dry as Melba Toast, but cotton never fails me. If you find that wearing synthetic fabrics make you hot, try natural fibers like cotton or bamboo instead.
- Some accessories may help. Products like the StomaCloak might help to keep sweat off your skin by wicking it away. At the same time, certain ostomy wraps and belts may cause you to feel too warm. If you don’t have to wear that extra layer of fabric, skip it if you’ll be out in the heat for most of the day.
- An ostomy cooling pack may help. One unique product that could help if you suffer from excess perspiration under your wafer
is the coolWafer. May 7, 2017 – Unfortunately, the coolWafer company is no longer in business. If you find an alternative ostomy cooling pack, please let me know.
- Change your appliance more often. Seems obvious, but you may have to change your appliance a bit sooner than you’re used to getting when sweat isn’t an issue. Keep an eye on wafer erosion during an appliance change, and if you notice that there’s more erosion than normal, change it sooner the next time. If your appliance isn’t affected by sweat, then don’t sweat this extra step!
- Antiperspirant for your ostomy. Say what?? I heard a veteran stoma nurse give this suggestion during a group meeting, and she says that using antiperspirant on the skin around your stoma will help to keep sweating under your wafer to a minimum. I haven’t tried this myself, but if you feel like experimenting, talk to your stoma nurse first to make sure that it’s going to be safe and appropriate for YOU.
- Try a different appliance. Like it or not, if your wafer isn’t sticking to your skin because of perspiration, you may need to try another type of wafer or a different brand. Some people find that certain brands work better for them than others. At the same time, you may want to look into extended-wear wafers, which should offer you better protection against moisture.
- Try wafer extenders. Although this won’t do anything to stop you from sweating, some ostomates find that using wafer extenders during the summer can help to keep their wafer secure.
Traveling When It’s Hot
Here are a few tips to remember when traveling during the hot months:
- Always carry extra fluids with you. I don’t rely on there being liquids along the way or at my destination because I’ve been wrong several times. Play it safe and keep liquids with you.
- Bring extra supplies with you, but keep them in an insulated lunch bag so they aren’t negatively impacted by the heat. You can see what I keep in my travel kit, and how I keep it safe from the heat and cold in THIS post.
- Carry some high-energy, easy-to-digest snacks. The heat tends to wear me down, so I always make sure that I have a meal-replacement bar in my supplies kit in case I’m feeling sluggish. One of my favorite snacks are Cliff Bars.
Sports, Swimming and Physical Activity
The warm weather often brings us out of our living rooms and outside to enjoy sports and other physical activities. If you are healthy enough to partake, there may still be a few things to consider:
- Consider a stoma guard if you’ll be playing sports or doing things outdoors that might cause an impact to your stoma.
- Try wafer extenders. If you’ll be around water (i.e. swimming), you could benefit from using wafer extenders to keep your wafer protected from edge peeling. I’ve got more info on wafer extenders HERE.
- Cover up and keep your pouch secure. There are products designed to keep your pouch secure and concealed for when you hit the beach or pool. Something like the Stealth Belt or the ComfortBelt would work well to keep your pouch secure in the water, and there’s even one specifically made for water sports too! You can also purchase special swim trunks designed for ostomates that feature pouch pockets on the inside! There are also swim bands too!
- Keep your pouch empty if you’re swimming or doing any outdoor activities. This can help prevent leaks and the possibility of a blowout.
- Be sure to dry off your appliance if you do get it wet; having a wet appliance on will only make things more uncomfortable.
Love the Sun, Hate the Sun
Who doesn’t look good in a nice tan? I love the sun and the way it warms my skin, but excessive UV exposure can be damaging. Here are some things to consider if you plan on spending time in the sun:
- Some medication can cause skin sensitivities or increase the risk of skin cancer, so always wear a sunscreen/sunblock. I like sunblock, which use minerals to deflect the rays off my skin, but there are many products available to protect you. Another option is to keep your skin protected using clothing items like hats or long-sleeved garments (there are special brands made to be worn during the summer).
- Keep your scars out of the sun! If you have scars, especially fresh ones, keep them out of the sun as much as possible, or use a sunblock. UV from the sun is believed to cause scars to redden and most likely causes skin damage that you simply don’t need (SOURCE)