Skin Health and Ostomy Odors

Stoma fluid leakage is a common cause of unpleasant odors. Learn about the connection between peristomal skin health and odors, including how you can prevent leakage under the barrier. 


5 Time Saving Skin Care Tips

Get skin health tips that can help prevent odors.

There are many reasons you may experience unpleasant odors if you have an ostomy. One potential cause is damaged or irritated peristomal skin which can minimize the seal on your skin barrier. The connection between skin health and ostomy odors is simple –the healthier the skin around your stoma, the more likely you will be able to maintain a good barrier seal. A good seal with a properly fitting pouching system can lower the chance of stoma fluid leaking under the barrier – which can cause odors.

The link between ostomy skin health and odor

The key to avoiding odors is a well-fitting pouching system. Achieving a good barrier fit on a consistent basis depends on the quality of the adhesion between your skin barrier and your peristomal skin, that small area of skin around your stoma.

With a secure and proper fit, the stoma output should go directly into your pouch without anything escaping. Ideally, you want to create a good fit to help prevent any leakage of drainage or odor from escaping. Healthy peristomal skin helps the barrier seal adhere to the skin properly. 

Irritated or damaged skin around the stoma – bumps, rashes, blisters, drainage from peristomal skin – can interfere with a good barrier seal and adherence. It can minimize proper adhesion, allowing for stomal output to escape. If not addressed, this can become a painful cycle, as damaged skin can continue to weaken the adhesion to your pouching system, causing more leaks that allow odors to escape.  

Prevent odors with good ostomy skin health

Your best strategy for avoiding odors to escape is to follow essential skin and ostomy care guidelines:

  • Follow a simple yet effective skin care routine
  • Consider using a skin barrier infused with ceramide. Ceramides help prevent water loss that can lead to skin damage and dryness
  • Make sure you change your barrier on a regular basis. Twice a week changes are considered usual, but should be based on personal preference and stoma characteristics
  • Avoid too frequent barrier changes if not necessary, since this can also cause “skin stripping,” which is a type of skin complication stemming from damaged or injured skin that can contribute to odor issues 
  • Work with your stoma care nurse to find the ideal changing frequency and the best skin care routine for you

Other causes of odor

There are other causes of unpleasant odors that have nothing to do with skin care. Gas is a common source of odor (as it is for people without a stoma,). Pouch filters can help minimize odors from gas. Pouches with built-in odor barrier technology also help

Of course, odors during pouch changes are always a concern. There are many available ostomy products that can help reduce or mask odors during changing. Your diet can also impact the presence of odors in your stomal output – some foods are known to cause odors, others can help reduce them.

The important point is that all of these causes of odors can be minimized and managed – and ensuring good pouching system adhesion by keeping your peristomal skin healthy is a good place to start.