I recently caught the dreaded diarrhoea and vomiting bug that seems very prevalent at the moment. These kinds of bugs can be really dangerous for people with an ileostomy, mainly due to the ease we already become dehydrated even when not ill. Severe dehydration can quickly lead to kidney and other problems which can become life threatening very easily. I do not mean to alarm people with this, but it is important you take this seriously and seek appropriate help in a timely manner.
This time I managed to avoid hospital but I know of three ostomates (and friends) who have had to attend A+E in the past week alone after suffering as I did. I wanted to share the lovely Fiona’s post on her blog page, Winnie and Me, as she explains what happened to her and gives some excellent advice too. You can read it here
I thought I would share how I coped with being poorly. This was my experience and although I offer advice on how to cope, if you feel at all unwell and are not improving, please seek medical advice through your stoma nurse, GP or by attending your nearest A+E department. A trip up there may result in you staying in long enough to receive some IV fluids but can really help you avoid any nasty complications.
I began feeling unwell on the Monday, suffering stomach cramps (which aren’t unusual with my Crohns anyway) and an extremely high and watery output. I had to call Ste upstairs to help me out of bed as my bag had begun to leak and my stoma was literally pumping water out all over me and the bed. It’s a good job he loves me! I continued with my day as usual, taking pain medication for the cramps and anti sickness medication for the nausea I was experiencing. I had been struggling with nausea pretty badly on the Sunday too but as this is also a common symptom for me, I just tried to manage as I always do and battle through.
It wasn’t till just before midnight that I began being physically sick. I am sure you are all aware of the phantom poo pains and for those that don’t – even though I have an ileostomy and my bottom is basically redundant, I still sometimes feel like I need to go to the toilet. I generally just sit on the toilet and often end up expelling mucous – as I still have some of my large bowel left this still produces mucous which is the only thing my bottom is good for expelling these days. As I was being sick however, these pains were awful and although I know it is physically impossible for me to poo that way, I had to sit on the toilet just in case! I was then up again in the night around 4am and was sick again. I often pass out when I am sick. I think it is more to do with the anxiety of it. When I was little my Dad had to do the Heimlich on me after I started choking while being sick and stopped breathing. This memory and the fact I get so hot often causes me to pass out which is pretty scary and means I am exhausted and feel even worse every time I come round.
The next morning Ste went off to see Layla for the day but I was just too unwell. Aside from not wanting to pass the bug on, I had only stopped being sick a little time before and wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t be again and the stomach cramps were horrendously intense. After previously suffering from really bad dehydration from being sick, I knew I would give myself the best chance if I was able to keep as hydrated as possible. On my bedside table I had some fruit and barley squash, Lucozade and I made up a litre of Glucodrate which is the new oral re-hydration powder Ste has been given to try, which is supposed to be even better than St Marks Solution. It certainly tastes a lot better too! Plain water isn’t much good for us ileostomates as it generally just runs straight through and out into our bags. Squash, especially the barley varieties are much better (and tastier). Lucozade is also good but you have to be careful due to the amount of sugar and if you get the fizzy version, how that affects you. St Mark’s solution is great, easily made by yourself, although it does taste foul. I mix in some squash to help it go down a little easier.
St Marks Solution Recipe
In 1 litre of water mix –
5 tablespoons sugar
1.5 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
This is a great alternative to Diarolyte (which can also be used – two sachets in the amount of water it advises for one), much cheaper and with the correct amount of the ingredients we need.
I ended up not being physically sick again but spent the whole day asleep, only waking to go and empty my bag which is when I would take the opportunity to top up my fluids. By the next day I felt a lot better and I think managing my fluid intake so well was the main reason. I stayed away from too much milk and milk products and stuck to pretty bland food such as toast at first when I started to eat again. I also found myself craving crisps. I find that often your body knows what it needs and mine was obviously lacking in salt so I went with it and ate a few packets a day for the next couple of days.
Your urine output is almost as important as your bag output during this time. Making sure you are weeing regularly will help indicate if you are getting dehydrated or not. If you do not wee in 12 hours or more you are advised to seek medical attention and if you have pain when urinating it may signal an infection so you should also get that checked out.
Back to my idea of full health (are you ever ‘well’ when you have chronic illnesses?!) now and getting ready for Christmas. I hope this helps if any of you suffer with any upset tummies over this festive season. If you are interested in learning more about keeping hydrated with an ostomy you can read the post I wrote on it a while ago here
Meanwhile, enjoy your pre-Christmas celebrations and fingers crossed you won’t be catching any bugs for Christmas!