From Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) Ostomy Outlook September 1997:

Thoughts on Odor Management

by Rosemary Van Ingen, ET, Greater Detroit Chapter; via South Brevard (FL) OSTOMY NEWSLETTER

Isn't it interesting that people with normal intact bowel tracts and urinary systems manage odor problems in an acceptable manner in our society? But when disease or trauma strike, and the person is the owner of an ostomy, the one big concern is the fear of offending society with an odor.

Basically, and simply, an ostomy is a man-made exit site that changes the point of exit from the bottom or back of our body to the front. Our eyes and nose are obviously on the front of our body, which leads us to be more aware of our changed body image and our odor-producing products.

I'm sure you've heard the statement "You've come a long way, baby." Yes, ostomy management has come a long way--considering that as little as ten years ago we had very few 100% odor-free appliances. When ostomy surgery was first developed, ostomates wore anything to collect output. Tin cans, rubber gloves, cups of all sizes and shapes, bread wrappers, and plastic margarine cups, just to mention a few, were standard equipment for the ostomate. Not only the feasibility, but odor problems this type of equipment produced, was enough to give ostomy surgery and people who had ostomies a very deplorable place in our society. Presently, almost all the ostomy equipment available to us today is made of odor-barrier materials. Therefore, if an ostomate does have a fecal or urinary odor about them, some detective work should be done:

  1. Check out the application of the appliance to the body -- is it leaking?

  2. Check out the closure of the appliance -- is it closed properly so that no fecal matter is oozing out after the closure is applied?

  3. Do not put holes in the appliance as gas will seep out continuously.

The urostomate should rinse off or wipe off the spout of the appliance with a bathroom tissue after emptying. Those few drops left in the spout after closing the appliance can cause a urine odor under clothing. It's interestingly to note that most urostomy appliances on the market are odor-proof, but the connector tubing and bedside and leg bags are not. You must dispose of and replace these products when they take on urinary odors, or else your entire living quarters will smell.

Emptying an ostomy appliance is comparable to a person with an intact bowel or urinary tract having a bowel movement or emptying their bladder. How does the non-ostomate handle the odor produced by this normal function of their body? Room deodorizing sprays are popular; a quick flush of the toilet when defecation occurs, and striking a match or opening a window are some acceptable methods that have been used for odor management since the invention of indoor plumbing.

Why then, as ostomates, are we so "up-tight" about the odor produced when our appliances are emptied? This constant complaint has encouraged ostomy equipment manufacturers to create products to meet this need of "odor control." The trouble is, the ostomy deodorants do not work for everyone, and they are expensive.

Can we then consider ourselves "as normal as blueberry pie" so far as waste odors are concerned? Just remember, there is not a man or woman on this earth whose wastes do not smell. If someone tells you their waste products are odorless, then a nose overhaul is in order.

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Content last revised 1997-09-08