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Fall Heath Tips for the Ostomates

Fall Heath Tips for the Ostomates
Christine Kijek, RN, BSN, WON

The Fall season is full of change. Gone are the hot hazy days of summer. The air is cool and crisp, the leaves changing from green to yellow, orange, and red. The sun is dipping down earlier as we prepare for the change to cold weather and shorter days. With these changes, we enter the flu season and many suffer from upper respiratory illnesses during this time as well. And of course, the ever-changing strains of covid 19. It is important to boost our immune systems and take steps to avoid contact with germs.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Ostomates need to be a little more vigilant than most. It is easy to become dehydrated when the flu hits. With dehydration, weakness and passing out can occur more easily. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Tiredness, fatigue, feeling sluggish and dizzy
  • Dark urine
  • Constipation (not for those with ileostomies!) and indigestion or heartburn
  • Headache, lack of concentration, poor memory, and irritability
  • Feeling thirsty, dry mouth and cracked lips or dry cracked skin, dry eyes
  • Muscle cramps occur with the electrolyte imbalance
  • Low blood pressure occurs from low volume along with increased heart rate, increase respiratory rate, and elevated body temperature. These symptoms are dangerous. If you develop these symptoms, you should go to the emergency room for IV fluids.
3M Avagard D Instant Hand Antiseptic with Moisturizer
3M Avagard D Instant Hand Antiseptic with Moisturizer

Prevention is the best way to avoid getting sick.

Here are some tips for staying healthy:

  • Get a flu shot: Now is the time to look into it. Flu season usually begins in October and peaks between December and February. It’s easy to find a place that administers the vaccine. Most big chain pharmacies such as CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Walmart, or Walgreens offer flu vaccines. Flu vaccines usually protect against a few strains of the flu but the prediction of which strain will be most prevalent is difficult. If you get the flu despite getting a flu shot, chances are the severity of the flu will be much less.
  • Avoid sick contacts: If friends and family report not feeling well, don’t meet up with them. You need to take care of you. It’s best to tell them you’ll see them when they are feeling better.
  • Wash your hands often: This is one of the easiest ways to avoid contact with those nasty germs. Keep hand sanitizer readily available while out and about. Think of all the surfaces you touch that other people touch as well, doorknobs, handrails, cans or jars at the supermarket, pumping gas, and the touchpad while paying with your debit or credit card. Money, it’s dirty!
  • Wear a face-covering: It helps with more than just the Coronavirus. The incidence of flu last season was low. (Might the mask-wearing and hand washing have something to do with that?)
  • Don’t share food or drink with loved ones, even if they do not have symptoms. For those exposed to the flu, they may be contagious prior to showing symptoms. The risk of spreading the flu virus by mouth is high.
  • Boost your immune system by eating healthy: Consider a multivitamin and/or taking extra vitamin C. Add citrus fruits like limes, oranges, grapefruit to increase vitamin C in your diet. As the days get shorter, we have less sunlight to absorb vitamin D so it’s important to get some in your diet. Good sources include salmon, tuna, and milk fortified with vitamin D. Superfoods are high in antioxidants and help boost the immune system. These include berries, fish, leafy greens, and nuts to name a few.
  • Sleep: Getting enough each night is difficult. Try to get at least 7 hours each night.
  • Drink plenty of fluids but avoid those that contain added sugar or alcohol.
  • Eat meals at home rather than dining out. Family meals tend to be more nutritious and can strengthen relationships as an added benefit.
  • Change up your activities or exercise routine: Now that the temperature is cooler, take a nice walk outdoors and enjoy the color changes and fresh air. It may lighten your mood as well as help you relax.
Natures Way Vitamin C with Rose Hips 1000 mg Dietary Supplement
Natures Way Vitamin C with Rose Hips 1000 mg Dietary Supplement

What to do if you come down with the flu?

  • Drink plenty of fluids to maintain hydration. Again, avoid added sugars. Water is an excellent choice. Consider keeping electrolyte drinks available as you lose sodium and potassium when your ostomy output is loose. Pedialyte, Gatorade or Powerade are good choices.
  • Call your doctor to inform them of your illness. Follow any recommendations given.
  • Rest is important for healing and recharging.
  • Stay home. You don’t want to get loved ones sick as well.
  • Manage symptoms. Treat your cough, congestion, fever, aches, and pains.
  • If symptoms do not improve or worsen, call your doctor again.

Getting the flu is dangerous for anyone but with an ostomy, you have added concerns. These tips and suggestions are great for anyone to follow, not just immune-compromised people. Keep yourself and your family healthy this Fall. Stay well!


Author Profile: Christine Kijek, Registered Colorectal Nurse

Christine Kijek

Christine Kijek is a colorectal nurse at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, CT. She has a wealth of knowledge in this field as well as personal experience. HPFY is thrilled that she has been an active participant in the Ostomy Support Group. She has experience working as a coordinator for cancer patients, post-operative care, and home health care for disabled children and adults. And guess what! Christine is also the recipient of the Nurse Exemplar Award. Christine lives in Bethel, CT with her husband Ed. Her children are married and live nearby. She has 4 grandchildren and is known as GiGi. Christine enjoys riding motorcycles and spends many hours gardening. She can often be found onboard a Carnival Cruise ship lounging by the pool.


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HPFY Christine Kijek, RN, BSN, WON

Christine Kijek, RN, BSN, WON

LinkedIn Profile Christine Kijek is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She has completed courses for wound and ostomy specialty and has 20 years of experience. She has ...

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