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7 Things You Should Never Say to an Ostomate

7 Things You Should Never Say to an Ostomate
Shweta Chaubey

Living with an ostomy is an uphill battle that requires one to make many adjustments and difficult choices.

The individuals who undergo ostomy face physical and emotional changes that need compassion and understanding from those around them. Unfortunately, they are often subjected to intentional or unintentional hostility. Sometimes, a mere comment can trigger emotional reactions from ostomates for obvious reasons.

7 Things you should avoid saying to ostomates

Here are eight things you should never say to an ostomate to foster empathy and support your loved ones -

1. "You smell!"

Yes, people sometimes say that.

Stigmatizing an ostomy as repulsive or unclean is the most heartbreaking thing you can say to an ostomate, and nobody likes to be the heartbreaker (sane people don’t).

Remember, the ostomy is a life-saving procedure that helps many individuals regain their health and independence. With right products they can mask the ostomy smell.

Instead of reacting negatively, offer support and educate yourself about the ostomy and its purpose. Acknowledge their strength and courage in adapting to their new reality.

2. "I could never do that."

Comparing oneself to an ostomate can inadvertently undermine their experience. Their unique journey of strength and resilience is worthy of celebration. Saying you could never handle their situation may unintentionally invalidate their challenges and achievements.

Express admiration for their strength, courage, and adaptability. Focus on learning from their experiences and fostering a supportive environment.

3. "Will I be able to notice it through your clothes?"

Personal questions about the visibility of an ostomy can make individuals feel self-conscious or embarrassed. Understand that ostomates may already struggle with body image issues and anxieties about their appearance.

Respect their privacy and allow them to decide what they are comfortable sharing. Offer reassurance that their condition does not affect their worth or value.

4. "Can you still have a normal sex life?"

The thought of intimacy after an ostomy can make one anxious, and asking intrusive and inappropriate questions can only aggravate their anxiety. Just like anyone else, ostomates can have fulfilling and enjoyable relationships. However, it is essential to recognize that individual experiences may vary, and their comfort level is personal.

If an ostomate chooses to share their feelings or concerns, offer non-judgmental support and encourage open communication.

5. "Why don't you just get it reversed?"

Questioning an ostomate's decision to keep their ostomy overlooks the complexity of their medical condition and personal circumstances. The choice to undergo ostomy reversal surgery is deeply personal and may not be feasible or desirable for everyone.

Respect their autonomy and trust that they have made the best decision for their well-being. Focus on offering support and understanding rather than questioning their choices.

6. "I knew someone who died from that."

Sharing stories of adverse outcomes or connecting an ostomate's condition to tragic experiences can be distressing and insensitive. Instead, focus on positive stories of ostomates thriving and living fulfilling lives.

Offer hope, encouragement, and resources for support groups or organizations that specialize in assisting ostomates.

7. "You're so brave for going out in public."

While meant as a compliment, this statement can inadvertently reinforce the notion that an ostomate's appearance is abnormal or shocking. On the contrary, ostomates lead active lives and participate in various activities, just like anyone else.

Recognize their courage in facing challenges and emphasize their strength and resilience in navigating life with an ostomy.

Interacting with ostomates requires sensitivity and understanding. We can foster a more compassionate and inclusive society by avoiding these eight insensitive comments. Instead, educate yourself about ostomies, acknowledge ostomates' challenges, and offer support and empathy.

Essential Products for Supporting Ostomates


Remember that your words hold the power to uplift and inspire, and by choosing them carefully, you can create a safe and supportive place for ostomates to thrive. Together, we can break down stigmas and promote acceptance and understanding of ostomates and their unique experiences.


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Shweta Chaubey

Shweta Chaubey

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Shweta Chaubey, has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2021. An advocate-turned-writer, her desire to create meaningful and positive content has brought her to HPFY and what better than writing ...

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