Living With a Fistula in the Summer Months
Fistulas are a common part of living with IBD. It's thought about one-third of people with Crohn's will develop a fistula at some point.1
Summer months can be particularly difficult with a fistula in my opinion: mainly because hot weather can make you sweat more and sweating from your bum is actually pretty common. (Sidenote, but this is nicknamed "swamp ass" according to the internet!)
Crohn's or colitis + fistula + summer heat
This sweating can make it harder to keep the area clean and infections can often breed in hot, sweaty areas. Some of us also experience IBD flaresc in hot weather which equally might make it harder to keep our fistula clean. (I won't draw you a diagram but if you are experiencing diarrhea, things get "messier" and are obviously harder to clean up!) Today I wanted to share my top tips for living with a fistula during the summer...
Keep the fistula area super clean
This is really important, whether you have a fistula or are recovering from fistula surgery. It's important to keep the area clean from any poo and also any discharge if you are still experiencing this. There are a few ways you can do this.
Some use a bidet in their bathroom so they get into the habit of washing after every bowel movement. Others use things like using a wet toilet wipe (be careful to check for chemicals in these in case they irritate the skin, you might wish to use a flannel and water instead) or carry a water spritz in a bottle when out and about.
Whilst this is always important, you may find that you need to do this more often in hot weather as you sweat more. I don't go anywhere without my water spritz bottle in hot weather!
Pick your underwear carefully
One problem is that your underwear naturally contains a damp environment where the skin has little room to breathe. I have started to wear bamboo underwear, as this is known to be a more breathable material and it also helps regulate your body temperature, so it should prevent things from getting so sweaty in the hot weather. Using organic, breathable materials lessens the chance of skin irritation
Keep the area cool
Keep the area as cool as possible. Avoid going out in the midday sun or other activities that may make the area sweaty. (It's obvious but a sauna or hot yoga is a big no-no!) Personally, I'm really careful of exercises or long walks in the hot weather unless I know there's a bathroom nearby where I can clean the area. In the evening, try to sleep with a fan and perhaps without underwear so your skin gets the chance to completely breathe.
Try to avoid Crohn's or colitis triggers
Some of us find the heat is a Crohn's or UC trigger so be extra mindful of a potential flare-up that could aggravate your existing fistula. At this time of year, I make sure to avoid juice with sweeteners, salads, and lots of fruit – all things we naturally gravitate to when it's warm but they all make my IBD worse.
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