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8 Common Questions About Your Child’s Ostomy Needs
Even though it’s often a life-saving procedure, it’s still difficult to watch your little one undergo ostomy surgery. The hardest part for some parents is feeling fearful or anxious about their child’s needs after surgery.
With the right support—and a little patience and practice—you’ll soon feel comfortable caring for your child’s ostomy needs. Although each child is different, you can start getting the information you need in our Caring for a Child FAQ. And, of course, we encourage you to ask your pediatric specialist or child’s ostomy nurse any specific medical questions.
1. Can I hold or hug my child after an ostomy?
Unless your child’s physician says otherwise due to specific medical concerns, absolutely! Your child can be held, hugged and may even play with friends and family, just as he or she did prior to surgery. The only restrictions may be contact sports, such as football or wrestling, as the impact from these activities may damage the stoma. Your healthcare professional can provide you with any restrictions.
2. Will I hurt my child if I touch the stoma?
The stoma has no nerve endings, so your child should not feel pain when you touch the stoma, or when she or he passes stool or urine.¹ Right after surgery, your child’s belly may be tender, but this should lessen each day as the stoma heals. Once healed, your child can play as desired—and even crawl on his or her tummy—unless nurses and doctors advise against it.
3. When should I empty my child’s pouch?
Typically, the pouch is emptied when it is one-third full.¹ This will help prevent heaviness, pulling away from the skin and leaks. It is also more difficult to empty the pouch when it is too full.
Wiping the end of the pouch clean helps avoid odors and clothing stains. You can avoid skin irritation by always making sure the tail closure is not pressing into your child’s body.
For many parents, it is easiest to empty the pouch into a diaper every three to four hours, or as needed. Older children who are beginning to be toilet trained should be taught to sit on the toilet, with their bottoms back as far as they can sit, and to empty the pouch directly into the toilet. Placing toilet paper in the toilet before the pouch is emptied may help prevent splashing.
4. Can I bathe or shower my child without the pouching system on?
Bathing will not hurt the stoma. Many parents choose to bathe their children with the pouch on, since there is no way to know when stool or urine will pass from the stoma. They then change the pouch after the bath.
When bathing your child, choose a mild, oil and moisturizer-free soap that will not interfere with how adhesives will stick to your child’s skin. Make certain that the skin is rinsed with water and completely dry before applying a new pouching system.
5. When can my child change the pouch?
Every child is different. You can start by having your child help you with simple tasks, such as gathering supplies, helping to remove the pouch, and helping to clean the skin. This may help your child’s self-confidence—and yours, as you slowly transition your child to self-care.
6. How should I dress my child?
ConvaTec ostomy pouching systems are designed to lie flat on the body so they cannot be seen under most clothing; however, here are a few tips that can further ensure your child’s comfort:
- Be sure that belts and waistbands do not press firmly against the stoma, especially if it is located at or near the child’s waistline.
- Many parents of infants and toddlers find it helpful to use one-piece undershirts, outfits and overalls to help keep curious little hands from pulling off ostomy pouches.
- Older girls and teenagers may wish to choose one-piece bathing suits that have a pattern design to help conceal the stoma.
- Boys may feel more comfortable wearing boxer-type bathing trunks.
If you have other questions or concerns, it is always best to call your child’s ostomy nurse, doctor, or other healthcare provider.
7. Will my child need a special diet?
This depends upon your child’s medical condition. Unless your doctor recommends a special formula or gives you specific dietary guidelines, your child will most likely be able to eat a variety of foods with few restrictions.
Generally, it is important for your child to eat a balanced diet, chew foods very well, and drink plenty of fluids (as instructed by your nurse or doctor) to prevent dehydration.² For the first few weeks after surgery, your child may feel more comfortable eating small, frequent meals and snacks.
Your doctor may also recommend introducing foods your child was not able to eat before surgery—or new foods—one at a time, to see how his/her body reacts.
8. Can my child become dehydrated due to his/her ostomy?
Dehydration can happen any time your child loses too much urine or stool and is unable to replace the fluid.³ For example, when a child has the flu with diarrhea and/or vomiting, she or he is at risk of becoming dehydrated.
Call your doctor or other healthcare provider if your child has diarrhea or early signs of dehydration, such as decreased urine output, less active or unusually sleepy and/or dry mouth.
This information was developed with the assistance of Sandy Quigley, CWOCN, CPNP, a pediatric nurse practitioner and clinical specialist in wound, ostomy and continence care at Boston’s Children Hospital.
- Caring for a child with an ostomy. SUNY Upstate Medical University, University Hospital. Assessed November 29, 2007.
- Garvin G. Caring for children with ostomies. Pediatr Surg Nurs. 1994;29(4):645-654.
- Information about specific surgical procedures: ileostomy. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Accessed November 29, 2007.