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Colostomy: Living an Active Life

You have been told you need a colostomy. Or, you have recently been given one. Once you heal from surgery, you can still live an active life. In fact, if you had a chronic disease such as Crohn’s disease, you may be able to do more now than you could before. In most cases, it’s your choice how much having a colostomy limits your life.

A colostomy won’t keep you from working, being active, and living your life.

Work

You can return to work as soon as your surgeon says it’s okay. Keep in mind that having a colostomy is not a handicap. People with colostomies do all kinds of work. This includes jobs that are outdoors and physical, as well as jobs that require a lot of standing or sitting. In fact, some athletes and movie stars have colostomies.

  • If your work involves heavy labor, such as lifting or digging, talk with your healthcare provider. You may need to wear a special support to prevent a hernia. A hernia is a weakness or defect in the wall of the abdomen that allows the contents of the abdomen to push outward.

  • If you move a lot in your work, you may want to wear an ostomy belt over the pouch to hold it in place.

Activity

You can most likely get back to your normal routine soon after surgery. This includes doing the sports and hobbies you may love, such as playing golf, doing aerobics, skiing, dancing, or taking walks. Being active is a good way to relieve stress and stay healthy. It can help you feel better about yourself, too. Until you have your strength back, ease back into being active. If you do a contact sport, such as football or karate, or lift weights, you may need to wear a special support or cover to protect your stoma.  Talk to your wound, ostomy, and continence (WOC) nurse. A WOC nurse is specially trained to care for ostomy patients.

Bathing and Swimming

Water will not hurt your stoma. You can take showers and baths, with or without the pouch. You can also go swimming. Pouches don’t show under most swimwear. Some tips:

  • Women often prefer to wear one-piece swimsuits with patterns or skirts.

  • Men often prefer boxer-type trunks.

  • If you’d like, use a rubber belt to hold the pouch in place. Elastic belts may change size when wet.

Clothing

Today’s pouches lie flat against the body. That means they don’t show, even under tight clothing. You can wear knits, belts, stretch pants—anything you like. Women can wear pantyhose, tights, and panty girdles. Just make sure that belts and waistbands don’t rub against your stoma.

Travel 

With a colostomy, you can most likely still travel where you’d like. But you’ll need to take all your supplies with you.

  • If you fly, pack your supplies in your carry-on luggage.

  • If you drive, don’t put supplies in the trunk or glove compartment. They can get hot and melt.

  • Fasten your seatbelt above or below your stoma to avoid rubbing.

  • In other countries, watch what you eat and drink. Avoid ice, tap water, and unpeeled fruits and vegetables. Drink only bottled water. Or, boil tap water and let it cool.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Akin, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith, RN, MSN, FNP, CCRC
Last Review Date: 8/2/2011
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.