Stories

With our limited reservoirs for storing food and liquids, dehydration and dry skin are common problems for many pouchees. Acting treasurer Peter White reports

I always know the cold weather has arrived when my skin becomes more susceptible to injury. As many of us know, having an ileoanal pouch means losing out on some of the fluid absorption the large bowel or colon would normally perform. That means being prone to dehydration – and part of that condition is dry skin.  For me, part of living without a colon means managing my skin.

So here are some of the key ways to deal with the problem:

Skin elasticity:

Cold and wet can make skin less elastic, and that has two impacts. First, it can split – leaving painful cracks which, sometimes do and sometimes don’t, result in minor bleeding; either way it hurts.  Second, it leaves the hands more susceptible to damage, and this is the problem I really have to watch out for.

Cracking skin:

Avoiding cracking isn’t rocket science, but does require some attention. It’s quite common for women to carry moisturising hand cream, but not many men carry a handbag!  Of course, there are relatively discreet ways to carry hand cream – in the car, in a work-bag, at your work desk and at home – and these cover most eventualities. In my experience women are also more than happy to share their hand cream with a man brave enough to ask!

Avoiding skin damage:

Avoiding skin damage takes more thought. For me gardening, DIY, water sports and mountaineering, each come with potential risks to the skin, and particularly the hands. Gloves are a really good way to manage these risks, and there are loads of different types available these days. For gardening and DIY leather gloves are well worth using. I recently took some skin off one of my knuckles trying to remove some wire mesh; it could have happened to anyone, but I suspect the injury was worse for me as my skin is less elastic than many people’s. For water sports I wear neoprene (wetsuit material) gloves summer and winter, which cost around £5 and absorb all the abrasion.

For mountaineering I often wear waterproof gloves and socks to reduce blisters and the effects of rubbing, and preventing the skin becoming saturated for prolonged periods. There are now a lot of waterproof gloves and some socks available for running, cycling, walking and other sports. If you can find them though, it’s well worth getting gloves which are smartphone compatible, especially in winter.

Repairing skin damage:

The body is of course extremely good at repairing itself. But constant wetness can hinder that process and result in unnecessary bleeding. With a pouch, going to the loo, and washing hands, are more frequent. So how do we keep hand injuries dry?

I have tried most varieties of plasters. Many are useless when wet. Even those that are waterproof are little use on moving parts (such as knuckles and other joints); inevitably they don’t stay on (or stay waterproof) for very long.

Something I use a lot is Germolene New Skin. Applied instead of a plaster on minor skin wounds, it’s basically like pasting UHU glue onto the injured part using a small spatula contained in the lid.  Within a few minutes it has set, and a glue-like layer protects the skin from water (and infection). It can sting a bit, but it’s well worth it, as you can wash hands and have a shower without the inconvenience or discomfort associated with plasters or no covering. It’s my favourite plaster! I have even started using it for prevention on my feet, instead of taping them with micropore tape.

This article was first pucblished in Roar Issue 56 – Christmas 2018.

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GaryB