Q-tip Tips by Frank Malanga, BOA member

Here are three ways Q-tips can make your life a bit easier. Tips 1 & 2 apply to someone who uses a two-piece disposable pouch system for a colostomy, as I do. Tip 3 can be used by anyone with a stoma.

Tip 1.

You can use a Q-tip to help clean your wafer when you do a pouch change.

First of all, Q-tips are very cheap. I buy a bag of 1,000 at a local dollar store. Then I use scissors to cut them in half. So I get 2,000 useable Q-tips for $1.00.

When it’s time to change to a new pouch I get toilet tissue and several q-tips ready on my bathroom sink. I fill a cup with about ½ inch of tap water and place that on the sink within easy reach.

I position myself standing over the toilet bowl and next to the sink. Then I remove the full old pouch and dispose of it. I place my soiled pouch into one of those long plastic bags that my daily newspaper is delivered in. Those plastic bags are watertight and odor proof, easily tied into a knot, and best of all, free.

Next I clean around the wafer with damp toilet tissue. After that preliminary cleaning, I take a q-tip, dip it in the water for an instant and press the wet q-tip against my wrist to remove some of the excess water. You just want the q-tip damp, not dripping.

Then I use the cotton end of the Q-tip to dig out stool that is trapped in the space between stoma and the wafer wall. That stool either sticks to the q-tip or falls into the toilet you’re standing over.

I wipe the Q-tip against a piece of toilet tissue, then dispose of the q-tip into the same bag where the soiled pouch is resting.

I take a clean q-tip and use the dampened cotton end to gently reach inside the stoma to pry out any stool present there that I couldn’t earlier grab with a toilet tissue. The damp cotton end of the q-tip protects the delicate stoma from injury. This technique leaves me with a completely empty and clean stoma.

As the days of wafer use pass by, (I generally get seven days use out of a wafer), the edge wall of the wafer breaks down and becomes yucky. I take another clean damp q-tip and clean and smooth the edge of the wafer around the stoma. I can also clean underneath the plastic surface overhanging the wafer edge surrounding the stoma.

If necessary I take another clean damp Q-tip and gently wash the visible skin around the stoma. This protects my skin and helps keep it clean and healthy.

Using this Q-tip method has increased the number of days I can wear my wafer to around seven days. I attribute this to my daily cleaning of the wafer edge itself and underneath the edge.

My cost for the three or four half Q-tips I use per session is $0.002 (2,000 / $1.00 X 4), a great bargain considering the benefits of a clean and empty stoma, clean skin, and a “reconditioned” wafer edge.

Tip 2.

I also carry three q-tips with me when I go out. If I’m at a store and feel a stool bump around the stoma, I go into a bathroom and peel back the disposable pouch to reveal the stoma and the stool. If I can’t grab the stool with a toilet tissue as sometimes happens when it’s lying flat around the stoma, I use a dampened q-tip to lift the stool and flick it into the toilet. This makes the pouch lay flat again, increasing my comfort.

Tip 3.

I also use the half q-tips in a different situation, namely when I am changing my wafer. I use the bare hollow end of the Q-tip to CAREFULLY remove stubborn tiny bits of stool that cling to skin next to the stoma. This must be done with a steady hand and very carefully to avoid touching the delicate membranes of the stoma. I find I can surround bits of stool with the hollow end of the Q-tip and gently lift them off for disposal.

These tips are not for everyone and depend on your personal situation. I suggest you consider them, maybe test one or two, and hopefully then will make life a little bit easier, as they have for me.