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Colostomy Care


You or a family member will need to learn to care for your colostomy. It may require changes in your lifestyle. You may work with an ostomy specialist to find the best ways to care for yourself.


Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return to have your stoma and colostomy checked. Bring your ostomy equipment with you to your appointments and any time you have to go to the hospital. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Skin care:

Look at the skin around your stoma each time you change your pouch. Your stoma should be pink or red and moist. You may have a small amount of bleeding when you clean your stoma. This is normal. Your stoma will get smaller and become its normal size in about 8 weeks.

  • Make sure the skin barrier opening fits well: The skin barrier is the part of the pouch that sticks to the skin of your abdomen. It should be no more than ⅛ of an inch larger than your stoma. If the opening is too large, bowel movement can leak onto your skin and cause irritation. Measure the size of your stoma with the guide that comes with your colostomy supplies. Make sure you cut the skin barrier smaller as your stoma gets smaller.
  • Soothe irritated skin: If your skin is red, it may mean that the skin barrier was on too long. It is important to find the cause of your skin irritation. Ask if you need help finding the cause of your skin irritation.

Change your pouch:

How you change your pouch depends on the type you have. You will be given specific instructions on how to change your colostomy pouch. The following is general information about how to change your pouch:

  • Ask how often to change your colostomy pouch: The type of pouch you wear affects the amount of time it can be worn. The kind and amount of bowel movement you have also affects how long the pouch stays on.
  • Remove the pouch: Gently remove the pouch by pushing the skin down and away from the adhesive skin barrier with one hand. With the other hand, pull the pouch up and away from the stoma.
  • Gently clean the skin around your stoma: Use mild soap and water. Do not use soaps that have oil or perfumes. Pat your skin dry.
  • Use a pouch with the right size opening: Use a pouch that has an opening that is ⅛ of an inch larger than your stoma.
  • Use skin products to help reduce irritation: These products can help protect your skin and keep it dry.
  • Use slight pressure to place your clean pouch: Center the pouch over the stoma and press it firmly into place on clean, dry skin. It may be helpful to hold your hand over the new pouch for 30 seconds. The warmth of your hand can help stick the adhesive skin barrier into place.
  • Dispose of the used pouch correctly: If the pouch is disposable, place the old pouch in another plastic bag and throw it in the trash. If you use a reusable pouch, ask how to clean it.

Empty your pouch:

  • Empty the pouch when it is ⅓ to ½ full: Do not wait until the pouch is completely full. This could put pressure on the seal and cause it to leak or spill.
  • Hold the pouch up by the bottom end: If the pouch has a clamp system, remove the clamp. You may need to roll the end back to keep it from getting soiled.
  • Drain the pouch: Place toilet paper into the toilet before you empty the pouch to reduce splash back. Drain the pouch by squeezing the contents into the toilet.
  • Clean the end of the pouch: Use toilet paper or a moist paper towel. You may also rinse the pouch but it is not necessary. Keep the end of the pouch clean.
  • Close the end of the pouch: Unroll the end of the pouch. Replace the clamp or close the end of the pouch according to your healthcare provider's instructions.

Foods to eat with a colostomy:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and fish. Do not eat foods that give you cramps or diarrhea.
  • Limit foods that may cause gas and odor: These include vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Beans, eggs, and fish may also cause gas and odor. Eat slowly and do not use a straw to drink liquids. Yogurt, buttermilk, and fresh parsley may help control odor and gas.
  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. This may help reduce constipation.

Living with a colostomy:

  • Ostomy supplies: Ask what ostomy supplies you will need and how to get them.
  • Work: Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can go back to work. You may need special support to prevent a hernia if you do heavy labor, such as lifting or digging. You may need an ostomy belt over the pouch to keep it in place if you are very active.
  • Activity: Ask about the best exercise plan for you. Talk to your healthcare provider before you play contact sports. You may need to wear a special support or a colostomy cover to protect your stoma. Empty your pouch before you play sports or have sex.
  • Bathing or swimming: You can bathe with or without your pouch. Always wear your pouch when you swim. Empty your pouch before you swim. Use waterproof tape over the edges of your skin barrier.
  • Traveling: Carry extra colostomy supplies and pouches with you when you travel. If necessary, your local ostomy group or ostomy nurse may be able to help you find supplies in the area you are visiting.

For support and more information:

  • United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.
    P.O. Box 512
    Northfield , MN 55057-0512
    Phone: 1- 800 - 826-0826
    Web Address:
  • Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society
    15000 Commerce Parkway
    Mount Laurel , NJ 08054
    Web Address:

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a foul odor coming from your colostomy bag or stoma that lasts longer than a week.
  • Your skin around the stoma becomes red and irritated.
  • You have nausea, vomiting, pain, cramping, or bloating.
  • You do not have regular bowel movements through your stoma.
  • The size of your stoma changes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your bowel movements are black or bloody.
  • Your stoma is bleeding and you cannot stop the bleeding.
  • You are too weak to stand up.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Colostomy Care (Discharge Care)

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