18 March, 2021
Having a stoma shouldn’t prevent you from travelling. This week is English Tourism week and we’re pleased to share our tips to support you in having a happy holiday in the UK. Since 12th April holidaying in self-contained accommodation, such as holiday cottages, cabins, campsites and caravan parks has been permitted. So if you’re thinking about planning a trip, or already have something in the diary, here are our top tips.
The important thing is to plan ahead and be prepared. Take plenty of supplies and always make sure that you carry an emergency travel kit in case you need to change your bag away from home. Remember – getting out and about is good for your well–being! So, even for short journeys prepare in advance, as this will give you the confidence to enjoy your trip.
We have advice on: what to pack, finding toilets, disposing of your bags, obtaining supplies, get a good nights sleep, eating out, swimming, and day trips.
The day before you travel
Watch what you eat, especially the day before you travel. You know the sorts of foods that give you problems so be careful to avoid these before travelling. Try to avoid skipping meals too, as this can cause excess wind and fluid.
Before you start to pack, make a list of the supplies and medications you need. If you’re not sure take a look at our holiday checklist (and ignore the items relating to holidaying abroad).
You should pack all your normal medications and any that may be required if your output becomes loose or you become constipated. Speak to your stoma care nurse, GP or pharmacist prior to travel about these medication.
Take with you some form of electrolyte replacement solution in case you become dehydrated.
Take sufficient supplies for your stay
There are no hard and fast rules about how much to take with you, but if you double up on the quantity you would normally use at home this should usually be sufficient. Remember, don’t just double up on the number of bags you take, but also on wipes, tissues and disposal bags as well. Even if you normally use closed bags it is an idea to take some drainables too in case of stomach upsets. It is advisable to take with you a note of your product/s name and product code (found on your prescription), as well as the telephone number of your stoma supply company so that if you start to run out of supplies you can contact them; they will do their best to get supplies to you.
We recommend that you advise your GP or supply company that you are travelling abroad as this will explain why the size of your order has increased.
It’s useful to know where you can find toilets on your journey and when you arrive. To find accessible toilets you can use Toilet Map or AccessAble’s Accessibility Guide or Changing Places Toilets Searchable map.
It is advisable to take a Radar Key and photo ID card. We produce a photo identity card which you can use as proof of your need to use an accessible toilet. The card displays the Disability Rights UK logo and explains that the cardholder has a medical condition and needs to use accessible facilities.
Disposing of your bags
Disposal Bag disposal is a common concern.
It is perfectly acceptable to put your bag (full or empty) in the bin – so please don’t worry about doing this. Some people prefer to empty the contents of their bag down the toilet, before putting the used bag in the bin, or alternatively just ‘double bagging’ the full bag in a disposable black bag before putting it in the bathroom bin or sanitary bin.
A bag with a flushable inner liner is another option. If you are not able to wear a flushable appliance, some people prefer to use a drainable bag when they are away from home as these don’t need to be changed as often.
Obtaining Supplies When Away
Always take a copy of your prescription with you for reference (include a note of your product/s name and product code (found on your prescription), as well as the telephone number of your stoma supply company). If you start to run out of supplies you can contact your supplier; they will do their best to get supplies to you. If your stoma care company can’t get supplies to you, call or visit the local hospital where you are staying. Even if they cannot supply you they may know where you can obtain them.
Sleeping in a new bed, away from home can be daunting, however there are steps you can take to help you to feel more comfortable and less worried about leaks.
Plan your meal times
If you have a large meal before bed, this could increase your output overnight and disrupt your sleep. You could choose to have your main meal at lunch time and a smaller evening meal a few hours before bed or have your dinner earlier. Experiment and find out what works best for you.
Avoiding foods that produce wind can help to prevent ballooning (where your bag fills with gas)– see our Ballooning guide.
Change or empty your bag before bed and make sure your bag is secure.
Always change or empty your bag before going to sleep. If your bag overfills at night you are at risk of a leak. Going to bed with an empty bag can reduce anxiety about leaks and significantly improve the quality of your sleep.
Take steps to reduce the chance of leaks
Try not to allow your bag to get too full in the night before emptying. In the early days after your surgery, it may help to set an alarm or two during the night to prompt you to get up and empty your bag.
- Keep a change of pyjamas, stoma supplies and spare bed sheets on hand. This will make it easier to deal with a leak in the middle of the night.
- Sleep on top of an incontinence sheet, puppy pad or dark towel. (Some people fold a puppy training pad and tuck it between their pants, ensuring that it covers the stoma bag – if you do have a leak, it then goes onto the pad, rather than your clothes.)
For more advice on getting a good nights sleep check out our advice.
Eating and drinking whilst on holiday
We often eat different foods on holiday. It is worth considering avoiding foods that could make your tummy work ‘over time’. It may be prudent to avoid anything too rich or spicy and also alcohol such red wine.
Avoiding foods that produce wind can help to prevent ballooning (where your bag fills with gas – see our Ballooning guide) and therefore help to prevent overnight leaks.
It is also important to keep your fluid levels normal. It is better to sip your drink rather than drink quickly to quench your thirst.
Swimming on holiday
You can swim after Stoma Surgery. Stoma Bags are waterproof, and you do not need a special stoma bag to go swimming, but if the bag has a filter just pop a filter cover on before entering the water. Here are our top tips for ostomates about returning to the pool. Check out our advice on swimming.
When leaving your accommodation, take a travel kit of supplies with you. We asked our volunteers for advice on the items they include in their travel kits. Our wonderful helpline volunteer Sue has shared with us which supplies she recommends taking with you when you’re out and about, so that you can change your bag and feel confident. Supplies can be stored in a neat non descriptive bag:
- Stoma pouches/bags
- Dry wipes
- Bottled water
- Adhesive remover
- Hand sanitizer
- Output thickener
- Air freshener
- Black disposable bags
- A folded puppy training pad (for added protection against leaks)
- Radar Key
- ID card
- Spare clothing (it’s also worth having one or two spare changes of clothes with you. Then you have one to change into if you have a leak and the other for peace of mind).
- A towel
- A peg to secure the clothes on their upper body out of the way when changing bags.
Sue said “I always have Puppy Training pads (Amazon £13 for 50), smaller, neater and thinner than hospital bed pads. I fold these up and tuck between my pants and ensure it covers my stoma bag, so that if the bag leaks, it goes onto the pad, rather than my clothes.” For more information, check out our volunteer’s advice on tackling the firsts after stoma surgery.
If you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or you’d like support, call our 24 hour Stoma Helpline: 0800 328 4257