Now that we’ve got a very hot and sticky summer out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about winter and what that means to us ostomates. I’ve picked up a few tips for surviving winter with a stoma, mainly gleaned from my own experiences over the last 7 years.
My 4 top tips for preparing for winter with a stoma
- Hand hygiene is more important than ever. Hand hygiene is always important for us ostomates but really needs to be stepped up a gear in winter, with all the germs flying about over the colder months. Noravirus (otherwise known as the winter vomiting bug) in particular can become dangerous quite quickly for someone with a stoma, due to the possibility of dehydration.
- Hydration is just as important as in summer. Colds and the over-the-counter congestion medication can dehydrate you. So can central heating, especially when you’re all snug on the sofa and don’t want to move to get a drink! If you are unlucky enough to catch a nasty bug like Noravirus, the best way to keep hydrated when you are vomiting (NB: this also applies after the work Christmas party!) is to sip water or rehydration drinks, little and often. If you glug large quantities, your stomach will often immediately vomit the liquid straight back up.
- Cold bathrooms = cold flange. Why do bathrooms always seem to be the coldest room in the building? If it feels nippy - and especially if you keep your spare stoma bags in the bathroom - you are going to need to warm the flange up before applying, to ensure that it adheres properly to your skin. You can do this by rubbing it between your hands or by popping it briefly on top of a warm radiator. (Psst – ladies - I find stuffing my flange into my bra, whilst I go through the process of removing my old bag, warms it up just nicely!)
- Your output may change colour. In the winter, some aspects of our diet typically change as we eat a more warming, comforting diet. That inevitably means that our output colouration will change, too. I remember only too well the first time I had porridge. When I emptied my bag later that day, I thought something terrible was happening to my insides! My output was the colour it had been when I’d had to drink Barium for a scan…only this time, I hadn’t. A panicked phone-call to my stoma care nurse quickly resolved the matter: she asked if I’d had porridge for breakfast. I’ll bet she gets asked that question all the time in winter! So do be prepared for it (although, if you’re ever worried about your output it’s always best to talk to your stoma care nurse, just to be on the safe side).