If you're preparing for the changes in your daily routine that an ostomy bag will bring, this article and its links will provide you with information about cleaning it. If you're a patient with an ostomy bag, or a nurse or caregiver assigned to care for the patient, you should have received training from your hospital or medical care professional prior to reading this. If you are confused by the process and feel that you never received adequate training by a professional in the proper technique of cleaning an ostomy bag, then be sure to talk to your doctor's office; this article offers general guidelines, but does not comprehensively cover the subject of ostomy supplies and bags and could not substitute for the information you can gain from your medical professional.
How you clean your ostomy bag depends on what kind of bag you have. Is it open-ended (with a clamp) or does it instead have a closed end? Is it designed for disposal after one use or is it intended to last for about a week? Here are some basic sanitation guidelines for cleaning ostomy bags.
- No matter what kind of ostomy bag you have, it's best to empty the bag before it fills completely with waste. Most people will empty it when it fills about one third or one half of the way. If the bag is open-ended, chances are it was intended for multiple uses. It can be opened and emptied from the end by removing a clamping device, all the while still attached to the body. Once you empty it normally, you can use an asepto syringe to clean out the bag before re-clamping it. A thorough rinse with the syringe is all that will be required. While some clean their ostomy bag after every emptying, others prefer to clean it once a day. You can empty them at regular intervals anywhere from five to seven days.
- If your ostomy bag is of the disposable, one-use type, then cleaning the bag is not an issue for you. Those with a closed end typically aren't intended for extended use, but are instead the one-time, disposable kind. Whether the disposable ostomy bag is closed end or open-ended, the bag itself is meant to be replaced, not cleaned and left attached for continued use.
- Cleaning your skin, however, is definitely still an issue. It's an issue whether you have a disposable bag or a bag that lasts for a week. No matter how frequently you change your ostomy bag, clean the tissue surrounding your stoma. If you're forgetful, just remember that tissue rhymes with issue! Cleaning your tissue is an important issue. They rhyme with very few other words, unless you're British.
- Make sure the tissue all around your stoma (the opening in your body where you attach your ostomy bag) is clean every time you empty or replace the bag.
- Check for irritation of the skin and report any change in appearance to your doctor or nurse.
- Since hair naturally attracts dirt and could also hamper an adhesive seal, be sure to maintain a clean shave around where you attach your bag.
For information about changing an ostomy bag, visit our article, "How To Change an Ostomy Bag or Pouch."
The sites provided at right will provide more information as well on ostomy bag care. Remember, though, that there is no substitute for the advice of your doctors, nurses and caregivers. Don't hesitate to ask them any questions and approach them with any concerns or observations as you adjust to your new routine.