Living with a Tracheotomy

A tracheotomy is an operation that involves cutting into the trachea that facilitates breathing. The doctor inserts a Tracheostomy Tube into the trachea for as long as is required to breathe. When someone undergoes a tracheotomy they may have questions: Does it hurt, how do I clean a trach, and what will I need.

A tracheostomy stoma site should not hurt after the initial healing process. If it does hurt or if you experience bleeding, difficulty breathing, redness, or swelling call your doctor right away. Depending on the situation, a person can live with a stoma there whole lives or the stoma can be closed with surgery or natural healing, once it is no longer needed.

trach tube

Trach Tube

A tracheotomy may be required when breathing is impacted do to damage or obstruction. Another reason for a Trach Tube is a vocal cord paralysis.

Clean your stoma two times daily. The tracheotomy site can be cleaned using cotton swabs with hydrogen peroxide. Only use unpowered gloves when cleaning the tracheostomy site.

You will need a Trach Collar, also known as, a trach tie. These hold the breathing tube in place. Trach collars can be cleaned while on the neck. Replace the trach collar when it is too soiled to wipe clean. To remove mucus or blockages from the airway, use a suction machine regularly.

When dry air becomes an issue, you can use a humidifier. There are home humidifiers that you can set up in any room or you can use a Heat and Moisture Exchanger to directly humidify the air you breathe.

Trach humidifier

Heat and Moisture Exchanger for Trachea

Speaking is an issue when you have a tracheostomy tube. One way to counteract that is to use a Speaking Valve. Some brands have a supplemental oxygen feature as well. Speak with your doctor to determine if supplemental oxygen is something that you need.

Finally, showering with a trach tube requires the use of a covering to prevent water from traveling into the airway. The stoma cover is designed specifically for covering a stoma in the neck while showering. They come in a variety of options.

Living with a tracheostomy tube requires a certain level of care and a few helpful accessories, but in many cases trach tubes can be temporary and should not impede your life.

Resources

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tracheostomy/MY00261

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002955.htm

http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/Documents/TracheostomyCare.pdf

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