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When to Shower with a Stoma Bag Off & When Definitely Not

When to Shower with a Stoma Bag Off & When Definitely Not

No matter which ostomy you have, simple everyday activities, like taking a shower, suddenly become very complex. For those of you that just had your surgery, this hard truth must be especially overwhelming, and you probably have no clue what to do…

But even if you have been already living with a stoma for some time, your shower process might still not be going without complications and you might still have many questions or doubts.

Sometimes, you just want to shower without your stoma bag to get a little piece of normality and the feeling of pure cleanness back. But actually doing it is not without risk and the thought alone can be scary.

What if you just finished showering and all of a sudden your stoma decides to get active? Or worse, imagine this happens when you are taking a bath…

But even when you keep your stoma bag attached, how can you make sure that nothing gets damaged?

Right off the bat, don’t worry, there are several ways to have a worry-free shower – with and without a bag, and you’re going learn them all today. Besides 10 useful shower and bathing tips from experts, we will explain in detail just when you can shower without a stoma bag and when it is better to leave it on.

It’s totally safe to shower without a stoma bag as long as you just use water and pH-autobalancing soap. In fact, 29%* of colostomy patients always shower bag-less, another 29%* on 3-4 days per week. However, in case of a recent surgery, wounds, or  high output, you should leave the bag on while showering.

*This survey was conducted in April 2020 among international stoma patients. The data results from 39 voluntary respondents. It was published in following stoma-specific Facebook groups:

The 4 top occasions for taking a shower WITHOUT a stoma bag

From time to time, it is a pure pleasure to feel that hot water trickle down the skin around your stoma. However, for most stoma patients the idea of showering without a bag is scary and many think it’s even impossible.

Nonetheless, in certain circumstances, it is perfectly possible to shower with your stoma bag off:

The following moments are suited best for taking a worry-free shower without your stoma bag:

  1. the day you are changing your appliance,
  2. when your stoma is most inactive, 
  3. when you have no option to properly dry or cover your appliance, or
  4. if your stoma is in a place where the appliance does not stick easily (like in the belly fold).

On those 4 specific occasions showering without a stoma bag is most recommended. In the following, we will explain them in detail for a worry-free and blissful experience:

1. On the change day of your appliance

without bag change day of appliance

Have you been wearing your appliance for your usual amount of days? Or is it starting to get itchy and you want to change it?

This is a great moment for a perfect bag-less shower or bathing day! You don’t have to think about covering your pouch or wafer or getting it dry afterward.

2. When your stoma is most inactive

Showering unsupervised when evacuating regularly

If your stoma is pretty punctual, you will know when the best moment is. However, in general, a shower without your stoma bag is best taken in the morning before any coffee is consumed, or when your last meal was already a while ago and you already had output. This is especially important for bathing as you don’t want to see your water changing colour.

In case of any output while showering, don’t worry! It goes straight down the drain without causing any mess and you can always easily rinse the shower afterward.

3. If you have no option to dry or cover your appliance

Showering without an ostomy bag in case you do not have the possibility to dry or cover the ostomy garment

It can happen that you don’t have any possibility to cover your appliance or to properly dry it afterward(or maybe you are just too lazy to do so…). If this is the case, you can consider showering without the bag and just enjoy a moment of pure freedom!

 

 

3. If your stoma is in a place where the appliance does not stick easily (e.g. belly fold)

Showering without a garment if plaque tends to come off easily

In special cases where your appliance does not stick properly anyway, it will not make any difference in the shower either. Therefore you might as well just leave it off and have total freedom of movement.

 

The top 4 occasions when taking a shower WITH a stoma bag is recommended

Even though it is a great feeling to shower completely bag-less, there are some moments when it is advised to leave the stoma bag on:

You should shower with a stoma bag on,

  1. if your surgery was only 1-2 days ago and you still have fresh wounds,
  2. if you have high or unpredictable output,
  3. if you have any skin irritation or wounds that need to recover, or
  4. if you just want to have a fast shower and you are wearing a bag that handles water really well.

On those 4 specific occasions showering with your stoma bag on is most recommended. In the following, we will explain them more in detail:

1. If your surgery is only 1-2 days ago and you still have fresh wounds

Showering with the presidium immediately after surgery If you are still within the first days of your surgery, you should definitely leave your stoma bag on while showering. It is best to check with your stoma nurse or surgeon when you can start to shower without the bag. It usually takes 2-3 days until your wounds are healed enough for you to shower or bathe without worries.

2. If you have high or unpredictable output

Showering with the aid in case of frequent evacuations

If you’re unsure when exactly your stoma will be less active, and you don’t want to first drain your output, then it might be better to just leave the bag on. It is for this reason that 72%* of ileostomy patients always shower with their stoma bag on.

 

3. If you have any skin irritation or wounds that need to be covered

with bag skin irritation

If your stoma is fickle, your skin is irritated, or you have any wounds, it is usually better to cover the stoma and therefore shower with the bag on. If you are unsure about having any irritations, you should also find out as soon as possible to prevent more severe damage.

In our in-depth article on skin irritations among stoma patients, you can find more information and discover the best solution to get healthy and happy skin.

4. If you just want to have a fast shower and you are wearing a bag that handles water really well

fast shower with stoma bag

In this case, you may simply consider leaving the bag on. Usually, it is sufficient to the bag afterwards with a paper towel or blow dryer.

And one more thing:

In case you decided to leave your bag on during the shower, there is unfortunately a next big concern that ostomates are often confronted with: How do I cover my stoma bag so it will still stick?

This is a separate topic and there are actually many solutions to this question. But there is only one that is by far the cheapest and the easiest, and you can read all about it here.

Alright, so now you already know the 4 best occasions to shower with and without your stoma bag. But we are not done just yet! In what comes next we will give you 10 extra useful tips for a worry-fee shower.

10 useful tips for relaxed showering with an Ostomy:

We asked long-time ostomates how their perfect shower or bath looks like. From their responses, we created 10 insightful tips that will change your shower experience completely.

10 great tips for showering and bathing with an ostomy summarized:

  1. A flexible shower hose makes life a lot easier
  2. Having a small chair in the shower is a game-changer
  3. Empty your stoma bag before the shower
  4. Cover the filter on your stoma bag
  5. Use ph-neutral and oil-free cleaners for washing your hair and body
  6. Use specific ph-auto balancing stoma care products
  7. Have paper towels or gauze pads at hand
  8. Be extra prepared when taking a bath
  9. Have all your daily care and replacement supplies ready
  10. Dry your skin completely before applying a new bag presidio
  • A flexible shower hose will make your shower experience a lot easier. You can better control the angle and the amount of water flowing across your stoma or appliance. Additionally, you can more easily prevent shampoo or other cleaning products from getting right over your stoma or barrier. This is important to guarantee the proper functioning of the adhesive.
  • Having a small chair with you in the shower can be helpful. In case you feel dizzy or you want to fix your ostomy bag cover, a place to sit will come in handy.
  • Empty your stoma bag before entering the shower if you decide to leave it on. This way it won’t cause a mess in your shower in case of any leakage or if you want to rinse it out.
  • In case you leave your stoma bag on, cover the filter on your bag if you have one. If it gets wet, the removal of access gas could be hampered, which might cause ballooning. Usually, special stickers to cover the filter while showering come with your bag.
  • Use pH-neutral and oil-free detergents for washing your hair and body. Other detergents could lead to irritation or hinder the adhesive to remain secured to the skin.
  • Cleanser with self-balancing pHHence, for safe cleaning of your stoma and the skin around it, use pH-auto balancing stoma care products. It is essential to use detergents that do not irritate your skin and that prepare it for reapplying the adhesive. This stoma specific soap is designed for exactly these reasons, keeping your stoma healthy and without any harm or irritations. Commercial detergents and other products on the other hand can cause severe skin and supply issues.
    The wrong choice of peristomal detergent is often a source of irritation and sometimes even more severe complications. That is why we interviewed experienced stoma nurses and stoma therapists to create an expert guide for the optimal peristomal daily skincare. Click here to find the easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to develop the best stoma care routine.
  • In the unfortunate case that your stoma does decide to get active, have paper towels or gauze pads at hand to remove any output.
  • Taking a bath with an ostomy: As a stoma patient, you can still enjoy a nice warm bath. You need to take some extra precautions.

Firstly, you will want to have a bottle of water close in case of dehydration. Secondly, keep a washcloth on your stoma to help prevent bad surprises. For Ileostomy patients, it is recommended to leave the stoma bag on during a bath or to only take it off for the last couple of minutes. Finally, remember to empty the bag and release the gas before getting into the water. Otherwise, your bag has a risk of floating.

  • Have all your supplies ready. Make sure you have a fresh bag ready for when you get out of the shower, as well as a clean and dry towel for your peristomal area. To note, many stoma patients also use protective creams as part of their daily routine.  
  • Make sure that your skin is completely dry before applying your ostomy bag again. Your bag still doesn’t stick properly? Check out these tips for the perfect stoma care routine with essential tips to make your appliance stick easily.
Enjoy a relaxing shower or bath

So there you have it! We hope you found these do’s and don’ts, as well as the extra tips helpful and you are now set up for a worry-free and relaxing shower.

In the end, what is most important is that you listen to your body and find the routine that works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try different things, your personal preferences are likely to change from time to time.

Q&A

Could you still not find the answer to your question? We have collected the most frequently asked questions related to taking a shower or bath with an ostomy:

Can you shower with a colostomy bag?

You can leave your colostomy bag on in the shower or bath without a problem. The bags are waterproof, and steam and damp actually support the adhesive to stick even better.

Can you shower without a colostomy bag?

You can always shower without a colostomy bag, water and  pH-autobalancing products do not harm your stoma. In fact, 38% of colostomy patients prefer to shower bag-less every time, and 23% shower without the bag 3-4 days per week. However, it is recommended to leave the bag on in case of a fresh surgery, wounds, a quick shower, or high or uncontrolled output.

Can you shower with an ileostomy bag?

Yes, it even is recommended for people with an ileostomy to leave their bag on in the shower or bath due to their high output.

Can you shower without an ileostomy bag?

You can always shower without an ileostomy bag. If will not cause any harm. Nevertheless, 72% of people with an ileostomy never shower without their bag due to high output.

How to take a shower with an ostomy bag?

Step 1: Prepare all the supplies you need during and after the shower:

pH-autobalancing and oil free cleaning products, paper towels,  fresh bag / wafer (if you want to change it), a towel or blow dryer to dry, …

Step 2: Empty your bag before going in the shower

Step 3: Option 1) Take your appliance of

             Option 2) Leave your appliance on & cover the filter on the bag

             Option 3) Leave you appliance on & cover it

Step 4: Hop in the shower

Step 5: Perform your usual shower routine & if bag-less, clean your stoma with a specific stoma care product

Step 6: After the shower, dry your skin or your appliance properly with a towel or blow dryer

Step 7: If you showered without the bag, now is the time to put it on again

How do you take a shower with a tracheostomy?

People with a tracheostomy should avoid getting water into the trach. Use a cover to put on the trach which still allows you to breathe.  A flexible shower hose is specifically helpful. Alternatively, you can simply turn your back towards the water.

Can I shower with gastrostomy?

It is recommended to not shower or take tub baths within the first 48 hours after the surgery. When taking a shower within the first 4-6 weeks, ensure that no direct water flows on your tube. Equally when having a bath, the tube should not be submerged. After this first period, or earlier in case of a balloon & low profile tube, you can shower as usual.

Can I shower with a parastomal hernia or a prolapsed stoma?

If you have a parastomal hernia or a prolapsed stoma, check with your nurse if it is okay to shower without an ostomy bag. If there are no open wounds or dressings that need to be covered, you should be able to shower without the bag. Make sure to only use ph-autobalancing products or pure water.

How do you dry a colostomy bag in the shower?

Use a paper or any other soft towel that absorbs water really well. If your stoma bag is still wet, use your blow dryer to dry the rest. As long as the air is not too hot, it will even support the effect of your adhesive.

Does hot or cold water temperature harm my stoma?

As long as it feels good, hot or cold water does not harm your stoma.

Is it OK to rinse your colostomy bag with water?

Many ostomates like to rinse out their bag after they emptied it. This process gets especially easy in the shower if you have a flexible shower hose. Gently, let a bit of clean water flow inside the bag and disburse it directly in the drain. Just make sure that the bag was properly emptied beforehand.

How do I protect my ostomy bag in the shower?

If you want to cover your ostomy bag in the shower, you can either purchase a shower cover for your stoma bag or use a DIY version. We have the best solutions summarized in a separate article, click here to find out all about it.

Can you have a bath with a stoma bag?

 If you want to take a long bath, leaving your bag on is the easiest method to prevent any mess with spontaneous output. However, it is important to use oil-free and mild products for the bath water. This will guarantee that the adhesive will still work afterwards if you don’t want to change your appliance.

Can I have a bath without a stoma bag?

Having a bath without your stoma bag feels perfect. Here it is equally important to use specific pH-autobalancing and oil-free products that don’t moisturize your skin. Otherwise, it could cause the adhesive to not work properly. In case of high or unpredicted output, it is better to leave the bag on. Therefore, Ileostomy patients prefer to only take the bag in the last couple of minutes before getting out of the bath.

Will my stoma bag still stick after a bath?

If your bag change is only a couple of days ago, taking a bath can even support the adhesive of your appliance. However, taking a hot bath frequently may generally reduce the wear-time of your appliance.

Can I go in a hot tub with my stoma bag?

Having a stoma should not hinder you from any activities you enjoyed in your life before the surgery. Having a bath in a hot tub is totally fine with a stoma. Make sure your bag is empty and the gas is released to prevent the bag from floating. Don’t forget to cover the filter on your stoma bag to secure proper functioning also after the hot tub. If you are concerned about losing your wafer or bag, you can secure it with extra strips.

For the perfect cleansing, remember to use Bioderma Stoma Plus which is specifically designed for the stoma and peristomal skin.

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