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Ileostomy Care

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is ileostomy care?

Ileostomy care is done to keep your ileostomy and the skin around it clean. This helps prevent skin problems. An ileostomy specialist will show you how to care for your ileostomy.

What products are used for an ileostomy?

  • Pouches are used to collect bowel contents that drain from the stoma. The pouch has a spout at the bottom to empty contents. Pouches come in a variety of sizes and styles. Most are lightweight and prevent odor. Some also have filters that release gas slowly and help decrease odor. Use a pouch that has an opening 1/8 inch larger than your stoma on each side. Your ileostomy specialist can help you decide which type of pouch is best for you.
  • Skin protection may help keep your skin from getting irritated. It includes films, paste, strips, or rings.

How do I empty my pouch?

Empty your pouch about every 4 to 6 hours. Always empty the pouch when it becomes 1/3 full. Do not let the pouch fill completely. A full pouch puts pressure on the seal and may cause a leak. The pouch may also detach, causing bowel contents to spill.

  • Hold the end of the pouch up. Remove the clamp.
  • Roll up the ends of the pouch. This helps keep the ends clean.
  • Place toilet paper into the toilet to reduce splash back. Then empty the pouch into the toilet.
  • Unroll the ends of the pouch. Clean the ends with toilet paper or a moist paper towel.
  • Replace the clamp or close the end of the pouch as directed.

How do I change my pouch?

Your ileostomy specialist will tell you how often to change your pouch and will show you how. Always change it if is leaking. The following is general information about how to change your pouch:

  • Empty the contents of the pouch into the toilet.
  • Gently remove the pouch. Push your skin down and away from the adhesive skin barrier with one hand. With the other hand, pull the pouch up and away from your stoma.
  • Clean the skin around the stoma with warm water. You may also use soap. Do not use soaps that contain oil or perfumes. Pat your skin dry.
  • Use skin protection products as directed if you have irritated skin around the stoma.
  • Center the new pouch over the stoma and press it firmly into place on clean, dry skin. It may be helpful to hold your hand over the pouch for 30 seconds. The warmth of your hand can help to mold the adhesive skin barrier into place.
  • Discard or clean the old pouch. Place the old pouch in another plastic bag and throw it away if the pouch is disposable. If you use a reusable pouch, ask how to clean the reusable pouch.

What changes do I need to make to the foods I eat?

  • Do not eat foods that are hard to digest for 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery. Examples are tough meat, nuts, seeds, and raw fruits and vegetables. After 6 to 8 weeks, you can start eating your regular foods. You may still have to limit some foods that are hard to digest, such as corn, nuts, seeds, and celery.
  • Do not eat foods that cause cramps or diarrhea. When you start eating these foods again, eat small portions first and gradually increase the amount you eat.
  • Reduce gas and odor. Do not use a straw to drink liquid. Eat slowly. Some foods, such as broccoli, cabbage, beans, eggs, and fish may cause gas. Fresh parsley, yogurt, and buttermilk may help to reduce odor and gas.
  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink about 1 to 2 extra glasses of liquid each day to prevent dehydration. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid you should drink each day.

How can an ileostomy fit into my lifestyle?

  • Return to work when your healthcare provider says it is okay. You may need support to prevent a hernia if you lift heavy items or perform heavy labor. You may need an ostomy belt over the pouch to keep it in place if you are active.
  • Stay active and exercise as directed. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Wear your pouch when you swim. Use waterproof tape over the edges of your skin barrier to keep your pouch from leaking. Empty your pouch before you exercise or have sex.
  • Carry extra supplies with you in case your bag leaks. Supplies include extra pouches, skin protection products, and a change of clothing.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your stoma changes in size or appearance.
  • You see pills (medicine) in your bowel contents.
  • Your incision wound or stoma is red or swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have diarrhea or very watery bowel movements for more than 6 hours.
  • You have an unusual odor that lasts longer than a week.
  • Your bowel contents are black or bloody.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your stoma becomes narrow, comes out too far, or sinks inside your abdomen.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You cannot stop the bleeding from your stoma.
  • You are so weak that you cannot stand.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • Bowel contents will not drain through your stoma.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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