Back to School with an Ostomy

Back to School with an Ostomy


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As your child begins to recover from ostomy surgery, it is normal for them to feel fearful or anxious about their needs when going back to school.

If you are a parent or the caregiver of a student with an ostomy, here are some tips that may help reduce anxiety about returning to school following ostomy surgery.

  • Schedule a meeting with teachers, administrators and the school nurse. Use this time to educate those that will be in communication with your child daily on what ostomy surgery entails and how your child’s needs may have changed since last attending school.
  • Diet, Nutrition and Hydration. If dietary needs have changed, it is a good idea to investigate what sorts of nutritional options are available at school or know if you will need to pack meals and snacks. You may need special permission for your student to carry a water bottle with them throughout the day to stay hydrated. Ensure that your child has permission to use the restroom whenever needed. If they are restricted, they will not be likely to drink as much as necessary to stay hydrated. 
  • Ask to tour the restrooms. Check out the privacy offered by stalls, sink layout, and proximity to classrooms. You may determine that a staff restroom or another non-student restroom may be more comfortable for pouch emptying or changes. If so, establish permissions in advance for your child to use these restrooms as needed. Most schools have a private restroom at the nurse’s station and extra supplies can be kept there as well. Closed ended pouches may be more convenient.
  • Create an emergency change pack and leave it in the nurse’s office. Be sure to include all the supplies needed for 2-3 full pouch changes including pouch and wafers, bathing wipes, necessary accessories, and a change of clothes. Even if your child can empty or change their pouch themselves, consider training a school nurse to assist if needed. If there is not a school nurse available, have a contact list on hand who can quickly get to the school to help.
  • Teenage drivers shouldn’t leave supplies in their cars. Teenagers may prefer to leave supplies in his or her locker or backpack. Remind your teen not to leave extra supplies in the car to avoid temperature extremes affecting supplies.
  • If you are testing new supplies out, do so on a weekend or over breaks versus during the school week.
  • Confirm with the student’s physician what types of activity are appropriate after surgery. Resuming activity following surgery is encouraged, but full contact sports like football and wrestling may require a slightly longer recovery window following surgery. Please consult with your physician before resuming any activity or exercise. Ask if during PE they will be changing clothes in a shared locker room and see if accommodations can be made.
  • No need to buy a new wardrobe. Consider Ostomysecrets® wraps and undergarments paired with their favorite wardrobe items to increase confidence. People living with an ostomy can wear almost everything they wore before surgery. Learn more about how Ostomysecrets® products work.
  • Over communicate what to expect before returning to school. Whether talking with teachers with your student, communicating about needs will help make your child have a smooth return to school.
  • Discuss with your child how to handle inquiries from classmates. Although classmates do not need to know about your child’s ostomy it is good to discuss with your child how to handle instances should a classmate ask. You may consider opaque pouches in case a shirt rides up.  Your child will feel more comfortable practicing responses with you at home. Always remind your child that an ostomy is nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Be respectful of your child’s wishes as to who is informed of his or her ostomy. Some children may only want minimal staff to know about their ostomy.

Do you have more questions about sending your child back to school with a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy?

Call the me+ team today to speak to an ostomy support specialist or ostomy care nurse, 1-800-422-8811.