Bag on or off when showering? This question is asked so often in the ostomy community, but it really is a matter of personal choice.
The type of stoma you have will likely impact on your preferences for showering and bathing. I’ve noticed that people with colostomies don’t have as many issues as those with ileostomies, as they have a less frequent, and more predictable, emptying pattern. Of the people I’ve spoken to who have urostomies, they seem to be less concerned if they wash with or without their bag.
There is no wrong answer, and I’ve done both.
The idea of showering without wearing a bag horrified me!
When I first had my ileostomy, I really didn’t like the idea of an unexpected leak because the thought of it on me - even though I could immediately rinse it off - made me feel dirty. However, one day I just decided to give it a go without my bag and, to be honest, that first time I really didn’t like it! So I went back to showering with my bag on for a few more months.
Changing my mind
Sometime after that I changed my mind again and shifted to the other end of the spectrum, where I would shower with my bag off, without worry. It probably started when I began my morning swimming sessions at the local pool. I knew if I hadn’t eaten beforehand then I was far less likely to produce anything, so felt more comfortable. I was also struggling with the ‘waterproof’ bags that clung to me and wouldn’t be dry enough for me to get dressed post-swim. If my husband, Steve, was there it wasn’t a problem as I could change my bag in the toilets and he would watch our daughter, but it’s far more difficult on my own – let’s face it, tired toddlers aren’t fun, whether you have an ostomy or not!
Showering without a bag improved my skin
I soon started having my showers at home without my bag, and the skin around my stoma began to improve. It felt far less itchy – although this isn’t the case for everyone. I would have all my supplies ready for when I got out, so it was just a case of drying off and popping a new bag on.
If I do shower with my bag on, sometimes I’ll need to dry my hair first, which means sitting there with a sodden bag, so these are my tips for reducing discomfort: pat lightly with a towel/use the hairdryer to take off the excess water, or buy the towelling bag covers (from online sellers such as Stoma Style) which keep the wetness from irritating skin.
When you’re away from home
When I’m at a friend’s house, or staying with a family member, and I need to have a shower I will always have my bag on as a matter of respect, whereas at a hotel I don’t care in the slightest! Although, wherever I am, if I have my stoma out (even if no output has escaped) I always make sure I give the shower a good rinse because I don’t think it’s fair for the next person who uses it. That is just my personal opinion on the situation, probably due to my many years of working in health and social care.
When it comes to taking a bath though, I still prefer (and I think always will) to have a bath with my bag on. I might, at the very end of bath time, peel my bag off and let my stoma soak because it means I can high tail it outta there if I need to!
How do you feel about having your bag on or off when in the shower, or even the bath? Let me know in the comments below!