Allergic? How to Tell For Sure
Many times I hear that people are allergic to adhesive tape, or paper tape, skin prep, or any number of different products that are used in ostomy care. Allergies can occur with any product. They can occur with the first use of a product or after years without problems. Most people never have an allergic reaction, but a few are plagued with multiple sensitivities.
However, many things assumed to be an "allergic" reaction may be another problem. It is important to know whether or not you are truly allergic to a product, because eliminating products reduces your options. Believing you are allergic may cause you not to try a pouch that might be perfect for you. Allergic reactions are usually severe and cause blistering and/or weeping skin wherever that pouch touches.
Two situations are frequently labeled as allergic by mistake:
First, if a skin sealant wipe is used, it needs to dry completely to allow the solvents to evaporate. If the pouch is applied while the solvents are still on the skin, sore skin can easily occur. Since the solvents can't evaporate through the skin barrier as they can through the paper tape collar, this will look like an allergy to the skin barrier.
Second, each time you remove a pouch, the adhesive takes with it the top layer of dead skin cells. However, if you are removing a pouch frequently, cells can be removed faster than they are replaced. This is called "tape stripping." Everyone's skin reacts differently to having tape removed. But it's important to be gentle and not remove a pouch more frequently than necessary. Skin that is stripped will be sore in some spots and not in others. Sometimes skin around the stoma becomes fragile and strips easily, and a pouch and tape with very gentle adhesive must be found.
To check whether you are really allergic: Take a small piece of skin barrier or tape and place it on the other side of your abdomen or, with the help of someone else, on your back. After 48 hours, take it off and see whether you are reacting. (If pain, itching or blistering occurs, take it off immediately.) If it's an allergy, you will react. If you have a history of allergies, test this way before trying on a new pouch. It's better to have a patch of sore skin on your back than around the stoma, where you need a good seal.
If you develop an allergy to a product you have used for a long time, you can call the manufacturer and find out if they have made changes in the manufacturing process. Calls from users are sometimes their first notice that the new improvements aren't working.
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Content last revised 2001-06-13