How To (or Should We) Tell a Co-Worker About Smell

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New Member

Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 5/8/2008 6:42 PM (GMT -7)   
We have a co-worker with a colostomy.  At times during the day, the smell is very noticeable and unpleasant for people sitting nearby.  Is there anyway to tactfully let him know that there is a problem?  Nobody has been willing to address this issue, but we all know about it.  He seems oblivious to the problem.

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2007
Total Posts : 420
   Posted 5/8/2008 6:48 PM (GMT -7)   

No. nono

Perhaps you should read up some more on colostomies. Once you are educated on what they are, maybe you'll be able to make your own decision on this one.

If at first you do not succeed, then skydiving is surely not meant for you.
Jo - UC, total colectomy and ileostomy on August 24, 2008.

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 1250
   Posted 5/9/2008 4:40 AM (GMT -7)   
I'm afraid there is no tactful way :(

I would discreetly take the co-worker aside and say to him that you (don't mention the others cos the more that he thinks have noticed, the more humiliated he will be). Mention to him that you have visited some sites regarding ostomy surgery (this might let him know that you're not being mean, but are interested in what he's going through) and have read that there are deodorisers available if needed.

To be honest, there really should be no odour. The bags are odourproof. The only time there should be odour is, of course, when the person goes to the loo (but then even 'bowel intact' people have a problem with odour while in the loo) or if the person has developed a leak in their bag. This person may not realise that he is causing a problem and may be greatful to you for pointing it out.

You could even suggest that there are special ostomy deodorisers available but 3% hydrogen peroxide is one of the cheapest (and most effective in my opinion).

Good luck. Do try to be sensitive but given the nature of the problem, it's going to be hard to tell him I know.
I have had an ileostomy for 32 years now due to UC.
Moderator of the Ostomy Forum
I'm not a complete idiot - some parts of me are missing!

Regular Member

Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 302
   Posted 5/9/2008 6:44 AM (GMT -7)   
Speaking just for myself, the fear of odor offending anyone close to me is a constant worry. I am almost paranoid about my bag smelling. If one of my co-workers would speak out about the odor in front of everyone else, those remarks would devastate me!!!! I applaud him for getting on with his life after his surgery. Get a can of Oust. Talk to one of his family members in private, but don't kill his spirit. Be sensitive-PLEASE!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 6571
   Posted 5/9/2008 11:53 AM (GMT -7)   
well i am going to look at this as if he is just a reg person (not an ostomate) with an odor problem. One of the places i used to work at we had a woman who smelled horrible, she actually had an ostomy, but her problem was because she didnt' bathe, she just put powder all over herself. It was making customers and employees sick. One of the managers spoke to her in private to see if their was anything anyone could do to help, which is when we found out it was because she didnt' bathe and rarely got to wash her clothes. She didnt' have access to a washer, and she was very very heavy. So, the manager called her family and htey helped her get clean, and that helped alot. We didnt' even know she had the ostomy until after all this was over.
Like NeNe i am worried about my bag smellign too, and always checking for that, i am almost OCD about it. And there really shouldnt' be any smell. I suggest either calling a family member, like NeNe suggested or going to a manager and having them discuss it with the person.

New Member

Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 5/9/2008 3:42 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks for these responses.  This is a real problem in our office.  I don't want to offend this person or cause discomfort.  I have worked with them for years and watched them struggle through years of illness and multiple surgeries.  I have been reading the other threads that deal with this topic because I do want to learn more.  Nobody is ready to have a discussion with the person because nobody knows what to say.  It's hard for others in the office to believe the person doesn't know when it's obvious at certain times during the day, and it is a daily occurence.  Others in the office are talking to each other about it and I am concerned that the person will find out in a way that would be more uncomfortable then just telling them privately.
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