Long Flights with a Colostomy: Tips and Experiences?

Aug 12, 2023 12:56 pm

Hello! Does anyone with a colostomy have first-hand experience with flights that are more than 14 hours nonstop? I know from my pre-colostomy days, those flights cause digestive issues such as bloating, dehydration, indigestion, and constipation. Does having a colostomy worsen those and add other issues? If so, any suggestions for how to minimize and manage them? I'm hoping to travel to Australia for innovative surgery not offered here in the US that I desperately need. Any guidance would be gratefully appreciated.

Aug 12, 2023 4:17 pm
Hello MarkI have made many journeys from the UK to New Zealand (& back) (usually over 36 hours from home to final destination) and have had no problems at all with regard to the stoma.It should be said that I irrigate, which is a great advantage when it comes to avoiding problems and lasting a long time between outputs.My tip for long-haul flights would be to think about it as your 'new-home' for that period of time. If you take your necessary supplies with you, then the facilities on the planes and in terminals should be sufficient for you to manage your stoma in a relative 'normal' fashion.
nHave a good flight.
nBest wishes
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Aug 12, 2023 5:38 pm

Why would flying cause those issues?

Mysterious Mose
Aug 12, 2023 6:27 pm
Reply to AlexT

I would think it is not the flying, per se. More likely, it is the traveling. Especially across time zones. I often (used to) get constipated on cross-country trips. Not flying, but traveling. I also used to fly to Taiwan and China and would experience constipation on those trips. From my understanding, this is a common complaint among some travelers.


Aug 12, 2023 8:22 pm
Reply to AlexT

Constipation during long flights is common due to inactivity. The same could be said about long road trips. Dehydration is common on flights due to the unhealthy dry air that is circulated throughout the cabin. That's why they always recommend you stay hydrated when flying.

Living with Your Ostomy | Hollister
Aug 13, 2023 12:00 am

Do not eat the airline food. It is filled with fats, sugar, and preservatives that can cause major stomach upsets. Bring your own non-gaseous type foods. Eat light and healthy a couple of days before the trip. Drink water, no soda.

Aug 15, 2023 5:48 pm

Hello Mark, I went to Australia in February for two months. I had no problems. I'm going again in November for two months.

Aug 15, 2023 8:51 pm

I have traveled long haul with no problems at all. Takeoff can inflate your bag but drink lots of water, avoid gassy foods, and get up and move around. Relax and enjoy.

Aug 15, 2023 11:00 pm

That should be no problem, as I flew to Australia a few months ago and the flight was 15.5 hours long. All was fine, and even though the bathrooms are very small, you can change your bags.

Aug 16, 2023 1:09 am

I had no problems on a flight to Europe and back. I took an empty 10 oz. water bottle (to get through security) to use in case I needed more fluid to empty. Be sure and take a small room spray 1.5 oz. (Bath & Body) for odor control.

Monsieur Le President
Aug 16, 2023 10:37 am

I have taken many long-haul flights over the nearly fifty years with an ostomy & not had any problems.

Just ensure you have a change or two in your hand luggage including enough wet wipes for just in case.

I always line the front of the actual toilet bowl with paper before I use it as vacuum systems use hardly any water.

If I do need to change, I just double bag the old bag & store it until I can safely dispose of it.

Enjoy your trip.

Aug 16, 2023 3:35 pm

Hi Mark, I have an ostomy and type 1 diabetes. I just flew to Spain and often fly short flights of 3 hours. I understand the side effects of flying as it can cause all of the issues you mentioned. My suggestion is to eat carefully for 2 days of pre and post flying. Choose meals/snacks that are hydrating and non-constipating long before the flights so you start the trip off right. Then be sure to continue with the foods that work for your system. Avoid red meats as they take a long time to digest. Avoid high sugar and high-fat meals as they produce a lot of gas and slow digestion down. Include soups with your meal plans. Sip water continuously on the plane and afterwards. Consider trying out some electrolyte single packs that you can add to your water bottle during the traveling. Be sure to test them out long before your trip to be sure your system can tolerate it. Find an electrolyte that is low/no sugar, and doesn't contain a lot of extra ingredients. It just needs a bit of potassium chloride (sodium) and magnesium. I like LMNT electrolyte drink mix. Instead of sitting and waiting, walk around the airports to keep the digestive system moving. All will be fine and enjoy the journey.

Aug 16, 2023 5:26 pm

I have an ileostomy for 3 years and finally took a few short flights in June. Airport toilets are roomy and I can sit up on their elongated seats with no problem. It's the jet that's a pain! A 3-hour flight and 30 minutes out of DFW, I had to empty. Turbulence seems to be very common nowadays. The toilet is too small. I had to kneel on the stainless steel lid, shoved my head into the low overhead, and held onto the sink with my right hand. When the tumbling cooled a bit, I wiped fast! My noggin is sore from bouncing off the overhead and my neck is tight. I want to fly around the world, but I'm afraid of that jet mess. 12-hour flights? Suggestions?

Aug 16, 2023 5:52 pm

Hey Mark,

I have flown extensively this past year to Asia and Brazil and got my colostomy in March 2022.

I haven't had any issues with flying. I know what foods cause my output to increase, so I just watch what I eat for a day or so before flying. Book an aisle seat and try to stay hydrated!

Aug 16, 2023 6:21 pm

I took a 10-12 hour flight with an ileostomy. It was my first time flying after surgery and I was really nervous. Knowing how easily I get dehydrated, I prepared with hydration tablets like Hydralite. I really like Liquid IV packets now. I know my digestive cycle is a pretty consistent 4 hours, so I ate early enough to make sure I was fairly empty before the flight, but it didn't matter. I ate lunch and needed to go again. I probably used the bathroom 2-3 times on the flight, and the only problem I had was waiting to use it as there was often a line. I felt fine, maybe a bit of abdominal pressure or something, but nothing substantial. I wear an ostomy leak guard and stoma guard daily, which helps protect my ostomy from seatbelts and leaks. I had to explain my ostomy supplies, having a mini pair of scissors in them to cut flanges. You absolutely need to bring a few bag changes in your carry-on. Bring a change of clothes just in case! It makes me feel more prepared for any accidents. Wet wipes, all that stuff. Don't drink any carbonated beverages. I had some ginger ale and had gas, that was annoying. Eat the foods that you know minimize odor and output, that's different for everyone, I'm sure. For me, French fries, burgers, bread, eggs, pasta are all pretty great for me.
I'm curious about the innovative surgery you're hoping to have? Would you care to elaborate?

Aug 16, 2023 6:40 pm
Reply to Bill

For comfort, I take a tablespoon of milled flax seeds with my food and finish with 3 or 4 dried prunes.


Aug 16, 2023 8:19 pm

With an ileostomy and urostomy, when I fly to Hawaii (11-hour flight usually with one stop in Cali), I try to take a later time for flight departures. The more time I have in the morning to hydrate pre-flight, the better. In the past, I also had a full schedule of hiking/swimming after landing. Now, I bump a few of those activities a couple of days later so I have time to hydrate and adjust to the time change, giving me time to acclimate and rest (extreme temperature changes like summer in Australia and you are coming from winter takes about 14 days for your body to acclimate). Any trips to Denver, Salt Lake, Montana when elevation upon landing is 4500 feet+ I also schedule a couple of days just to acclimate to elevation. I've had one blockage while traveling to a dry climate after eating something I usually eat at home, so now I make sure things are cooked well before consuming. Also, with a 2-piece Convatec system, I've noticed the stick for the wafers doesn't last as long when my supplies are in checked bags cargo exposed to the elements - not sure if that's the case. Certainly to hedge against any lost luggage, I'll always split my supplies with checked bags and carry-on. Safe travels!  

Sep 28, 2023 1:21 am
Reply to Oscar23

Hi Oscar. Thanks for your tips on flying with ostomies.

I noticed you said that you have an ileostomy and a urostomy. I'm faced with having a urostomy after having a colostomy since July 2022. I just posted a discussion topic with questions about life with both a colostomy or ileostomy and a urostomy. Would appreciate it deeply if you can share information about your experience with it. Thanks.

Sep 28, 2023 4:12 am

I just flew yesterday across the country. It took about 2 extra seconds in the TSA line. I simply said I have an ostomy, they had me pat it, and they tested my hands afterwards for explosives. 🤷‍♂️ Kind of ironic, huh? 😂 No other issues whatsoever with my ostomy during the flight.

Mysterious Mose
Sep 28, 2023 4:20 pm

Had the same type of experience a couple of months ago. Pat pat, sniff sniff, and gone. :-)