There are no perfect answers to the problem of coping with leakage from the bowel. Some of the following products may be of help to you, but it is very difficult to find anything that reliably disguises bowel leakage and smell and which keeps you feeling comfortable. It is hoped that in future more time and investment will go into developing products to contain this embarrassing problem.
Pads and Pants
There are very few products designed specifically for managing faecal incontinence. Most of the disposable pads used for urinary incontinence can be used for containment, but some people find them unnecessarily thick, bulky, and not exactly the right shape at the back to contain anal leakage.
The simplest sort of pad for minor leakage is a panty liner, available in supermarkets and chemists. Unfortunately, if used inside the pants, the area between the buttocks often becomes sore as stool is on the skin. Some people have found that folding a panty liner between the buttocks and holding it in place with a close-fitting G-string, helps to contain soiling and prevents the skin from getting sore (see Figure 1). Some panty liners have a soft cover, which seems to be softer than a stay dry cover.
Some people with minor leakage of mucus or stool from the anus find that a small piece of cotton wool, rolled between the fingers and then gently inserted just inside the anus, will stop the problem. If this feels sore, try it with a small amount of Vaseline.
An anal plug has been developed to help people with bowel leakage. It is designed to be worn inside the rectum to plug the exit from the anus from the inside.
The anal plug comes wrapped up in a water-soluble film, so that it is easy to put in. It should be covered with Vaseline and then gently inserted with a finger through the anal canal into the rectum. The film dissolves once inside the rectum, and the plug opens into a cup shape, with a string for removal in the anus. It can be left in place for up to 12 hours. It comes in 2 sizes, small and large and only trying it will tell which is best.
Some people find an anal plug uncomfortable, or that it gives a constant feeling of needing to open the bowels. Others find the plug comfortable and effective, and it is not possible to tell whether it will help without trying it.
The anal plug has to be taken out before a bowel action, and so is not suitable for someone who needs to open the bowels very frequently. It is disposable. It cannot be flushed down the toilet, and so must be wrapped in paper or a disposal bag and put in the rubbish bin.
Faecal collection pouch
Occasionally people who are seriously ill and confined to bed and who have uncontrolled diarrhoea can benefit from wearing a collection bag over the anus.
Having a bowel accident when you are away from home can be very embarrassing. A little forward planning can make this a little easier to cope with. Some or all of these may help:
- Public toilets seldom have a wash basin in the toilet cubicle, and it is often difficult to get clean just with dry tissue. Take a small packet of wet wipes in you bag or pocket (Andrex Moist do a pocket sized rigid plastic case).
- Or take a small plastic squeezy bottle that you can fill with warm water to take into the toilet with you (available in many chemists for about £1).
- If you need both hands to get clean or change a pad, a couple of clothes pegs can be useful to keep your clothes out of the way.
- A small pocket mirror can be useful to check that you are clean.
- There is a variety of sanitary towel or nappy disposal bags available in large chemists and supermarkets. Most are slightly scented and have tie handles. These are useful for disposal, or to carry soiled pants home for washing.
- Dark colours and patterned fabrics tend to show any stains less than light fabrics.
- A small aerosol of neutraliser or spray perfume, used sparingly, may help you to disguise any odour.