laryngectomee Stoma Care





stoma care - basics





You will breathe easier, cough out thinner mucus with less effort, and have a cleaner, healthier stoma if you will irrigate, use a humidifier, and keep your stoma covered to avoid losing moisture each time you exhale. If you are away from your humidifier, carry a small spray bottle with clean water and use it to spray your stoma and your stoma cover. Keeping this area moist is the secret to avoid any crusting (dried mucus in and around the stoma) and to keep any bits of dried mucus or blood from solidifying inside your trachea. If you are crusting or coughing up dried bits, add more moisture. Being well hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids is also a important in keeping the mucus softened.
Check our Stoma Dos and Don'ts for more hints on moisture or humidifying. You can also refer to the Stoma Care Equipment section for more information on Humidifiers.



It is a good idea to keep your stoma covered to help keep out dust, pollen and other contaminants. There are several options for covers including foam filters available from many vendors. You can use a stoma bib as described in the Stoma Covers section or an HME (Heat Moisture Exchange) filter discussed in the HME section.


1. For laryngectomy patients, like myself, living on the Gulf Coast, low relative humidity is seldom a problem unless you happen to share air-conditioned office space with numerous electronic office automation devices. Facility managers tend to crank down ambient moisture to insure long life and proper function for these non-human contributors. In this situation and lacking a functioning nose and sinus passages, you will have an annoying little problem that will not effect your co-workers. Not only is your body tricked into believing you are working in Death Valley, but the lower humidity contributes to additional airborne particulate material. "Paperless office" is still very much an oxymoron and there is plenty of paper dust to take flight in the artificially dry air. The result – A significant increase in mucus production while you are at work. Not something you really need while trying to blend in. How do you remedy this discomfort when environmental changes are clearly beyond your span of control?    Simple – If you can't change your environment, you change yourself. First, super-hydrate by drinking more water than a fish. Forget trying to count and comply with the dumb eight glasses-a-day rule, just drink water until your urine begins to clear. To avoid constantly beating feet to the water fountain, keep a water jug and stadium cup at your desk. After a while, all this additional water intake merely becomes part of your daily routine. You may wish to cut out or at least cut back on coffee consumption. The only way to defeat airborne crud is to have very, very good stoma filtration. There are a number of fine products on the market, but at this point, my personal favorite is the PROVOX Stoma filter. When I discard a filter cassette, you would not believe what that little devil has intercepted for me. In addition to keeping bad stuff out, good filtration also slows the escape of moisture from your respiratory system. Everyone is different, but this should reduce your mucus production to manageable levels while you are at work and allow you to return to your former level of productivity. Unless you are looking for a reason, a laryngectomy should not force you into retirement. (Marvin Whitley)

2. I had an experience with what we breathe in, while wearing a white crocheted stoma cover and working in the garage on planting some flowers in new pots. Put potting soil in them. Later when I went in the house, there was a perfect black circle on my white stoma cover where it had caught the dirt in the air I was breathing. So anything over the stoma helps to filter.

Also a friend told me before he went to mow the yard, he always wet his stoma cover down so it would catch the dust and pollens.

(Pat Sanders)






Daily care is needed to prevent infection and skin irritation, especially on a new stoma site.

Caution must be used to never use anything other than water based products in or around the stoma. Caution should also be used to prevent lint from tissues from entering the stoma or lungs. Saline solution can be used to help soften the mucus enabling it to be removed easier. You can make your own or use the pink saline bullets available.  It is always better if you can cough out the mucus to clear your lungs however if this is not an option for you, you may have to use a suction machine.

(More detailed information can be found in Stoma Care - Dos and Don’ts.)

(Additional information on stoma care, humidifiers and suctioning can be found at:

Stoma Care - Equipment)




When you cough or sneeze and don't get covered in time, the result can be embarrassing when projectile mucus flies from the stoma. Avoid this by using a stoma cover or at least something like a foam square. This will protect your clothing and keep foreign items, like a flying bug, from entering your stoma. In the unlikely event that this occurs, a little squirt of saline solution or plain water in the stoma will help to cough it out.

(See Stoma Cover Section for covers)

(See After Care - Mucus Problems for Tissue Issues)




One of the most irritating, exasperating things about my stoma was when clothing like crew neck tee shirts blocked my stoma from time to time. V-neck tee shirts are a welcome relief and make it much easier to get to the stoma for cleaning.




If you lose your stoma vent (tube) and don't have a spare, it may take a few days to get a new one.  If it is urgent that you wear one (as in stoma stenosis), use a baby bottle nipple, cut the narrow tip back to increase the inner diameter and it will make a temporary short tube. The flange end could be pierced on each side and you could use ribbon, string, or shoe laces to tie behind the neck and hold it in the stoma. You can even sterilize it before and after use. (Judy Greiwe)



Don't be too quick to assume that you will not use a stoma vent that you have quit wearing or electrolarynx that you think you will not go back to.  Keep a box of spare items as a "just in case" supply box.





In March, 2005, we published, in Whispers on the Web, the first 10 of 100 hints, called Living the Lary Lifestyle. We continued for the next 9 months with 10 new tips every month including interesting comments by the author next to each hint. You will find green links to each of the newsletters of that group below.  You will be amused, educated and delighted. If you have time and as long as you are there, you might take a look at other articles of significance to you.

(Pat Sanders, Editor)


Living the Lary Lifestyle   - Joan G. Burnside, M.A.


Welcome new Lary! These tips represent my learning process during the year following my laryngectomy with the help of the WebWhispers on-line support group and the Speech Pathology staff at MD Anderson Cancer Clinic and Hospital in Houston. I hope the tips will give other new Larys a jump-start on the road to a new life and remind experienced Larys of just how far they've come.

I am grateful to all the WebWhispers members for sparking many of these tips and for welcoming my contributions and questions on the web. I am indebted also, to the speech-language pathologists at MD Anderson because their admirable service inspired me to expand and update my speech-language pathology background.

These tips have been written from the viewpoint of a patient and are intended only as a supplement to the professional advice and treatment offered by physicians and speech-language pathologists who specialize in the treatment of laryngectomees.

Joan Burnside, MA
College Station, Texas
February 2005

Chapter 01 -

Chapter 02 -

Chapter 03 -

Chapter 04 -

Chapter 05 -

Chapter 06 -

Chapter 07 -

Chapter 08 -

Chapter 09 -

Chapter 10 -


This is a monthly index with contents of each issue so you can decide what you might like:



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