After 18 months of avoiding the dreaded Covid, I got a positive LFT test in December, followed by the PCR confirming it. No-one else in the house was testing positive so I was lucky enough to have a spare room in the house to move into, as my daughter is away at uni, there is also a small bathroom and it is on the top floor of the house, so I was able to avoid the family and isolate.
I searched a lot about how Covid could effect my ileostomy and didn’t find too much. I did find ‘An Ostomates experience of Covid19’ on the Coloplast website, so that is worth a look. So I thought I would share my experience, as always this is just my personal experience and Im not medically trained, so if you are concerned about yourself, you should speak to a medical professional.
It started with just feeling a bit off, a high temperature and a bit of a cough, after testing and isolating, I felt a little rough for a couple of days but nothing too bad. Then on day three, I began to vomit and have extremely high output, my temperature was sky high and I felt terrible. I started taking rehydration sachets to combat the vomiting and diarrhoea, but by day 5 it was really tough.
My husband tested positive at this time too, and he was feeling really poorly. We had similar symptoms in some ways, high temp, sweating, feeling hot and then freezing. We both had terrible headaches, were exhausted and sleeping a lot, were breathless and our chests hurt.
But it was the vomiting and high output from my stoma that was the worst. By day 5 I couldn’t eat at all, I was only keeping down sips of water and I had to call 111. I was terrified of being admitted to hospital. Would I end up on a ventilator? Would there be stoma nurses on Covid wards? Would this damage my kidneys again? What if I died? 111 were great and got a GP to call me, he listened to my concerns and prescribed some anti emetic medication to help me stop vomiting and told me to continue to take the rehydration sachets, with orders to call 111 immediately if it got worse, if I passed out, if I stopped peeing.
My lovely friend picked up the medication and dropped it at out doorstep and though it helped with the vomiting, I was still extremely nauseous and my ileostomy bag was just filling with watery bile constantly. On day 7, I had to call 111 again as I couldn’t even keep water down, they gave me some more anti emetics and I was told the next step was hospital. I had also started coughing up grey and green phlegm, which I was told is not a symptom of Covid but of a chest infection, which was probably caused by the Covid, so I was given a high dose of antibiotics.
What was so difficult is that my husband was as poorly as I was but without the vomiting. He was bed ridden and his temperature was frighteningly high, had awful headaches and fatigue. So we lay in bed, side by side feeling sorry for ourselves but they do say misery loves company!! So it was actually quite nice to be in it together.
Luckily the vomiting and output slowed down after this, and over the next few days, I started to feel a little more human. It was around 10 days of feeling really ill, and I lost over a stone in that time. I was still very weak and poorly, but once I could eat and drink again, everything became a bit more bearable.
Whenever I am poorly with a cold or infection, my stoma reacts badly and I get bad diarrhoea and so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that Covid caused the same thing for me. But it was a scary time and I am so glad we are over the worst of it now.
All I can say is that if you have any illness that causes your ostomy to act differently, it is worth calling your GP to check in. Dehydration is so often overlooked or thought to not be a big deal, but its huge and it can damage your kidneys and make you incredibly unwell.
The NHS says: You’re at an increased risk of becoming dehydrated if you have an ileostomy because the large intestine, which is either removed or unused if you have an ileostomy, plays an important role in helping absorb water from food waste.
This makes it important to make sure you drink enough fluids to keep your urine a pale yellow colour to prevent complications of dehydration, such as kidney stones and even kidney failure.
Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:
- feeling thirsty
- dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- feeling tired
- a dry mouth, lips and eyes
- peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day
Dehydration can happen more easily if you have:
- vomiting or diarrhoea
- been in the sun too long (heatstroke)
- drunk too much alcohol
- sweated too much after exercising
- a high temperature of 38C or more
- been taking medicines that make you pee more (diuretics)
How you can reduce the risk of dehydration
- Drink fluids when you feel any dehydration symptoms
- If you find it hard to drink because you feel sick or have been sick, start with small sips and then gradually drink more.
- You can use a spoon to make it easier for your child to swallow the fluids.
- You should drink enough during the day so your pee is a pale clear colour
- Drink more when there’s a higher risk of dehydrating, for example, if you’re vomiting, sweating or you have diarrhoea.
A pharmacist can help with dehydration
If you’re being sick or have diarrhoea and are losing too much fluid, you need to put back the sugar, salts and minerals that your body has lost.
Your pharmacist can recommend oral rehydration sachets. These are powders that you mix with water and then drink.
The other thing I would say was quite difficult with having Covid and an ileostomy is that I also have a ParaStomal Hernia, this is a hernia that sits behind the stoma and I am used to having to support it when coughing. Usually this isn’t a big deal as you don’t cough that often! But when you are constantly coughing, it is important to support the hernia. You can do this by gently pressing and holding the hernia as you cough, you can use your hands or a folded towel or sheet.
I am well on the mend now physically, but mentally it really took a toll on me. I have been having therapy for the past six months for PTSD after my last surgery. One of my big triggers is from when I was wrongly discharged from hospital when my kidneys were failing. I came home and I started vomiting litres of bile and my body started to shut down. The hospital called when they realised their mistake and told my husband to bring me straight back in as I had a stage 3 AKI (Acute Kidney Injury). I was very unwell but thankfully it was a good outcome and I recovered. But the incident made me develop PTSD, I had panic attacks, insomnia and depression. The symptoms of Covid, the vomiting, the dehydration, the panic of whether I would go to hospital or not, it made those past feelings come flooding back and I have had a bad few weeks trying to deal with this relapse into anxiety.
Its been about 6 and a half weeks since I got Covid, and Im happy to say that I am doing much better now physically. But I wanted to just note down my experience and send lots of love to anyone dealing with covid, long covid or the mental health issues around living through a pandemic.
Peace and love