Tracheostomy tubes let you live a relatively normal life at home — you can eat, move around, and sit up. How can you take care of yourself and your trach to avoid problems once you leave the hospital? And if a problem does arise, what should you do?
This blog post will give you:
- Daily tracheostomy homecare tips
- Seven common symptoms, what may have happened to cause them, and what you should do
Related: For more resources, check out our website, livingwithavent.com.
Daily Tracheostomy Homecare Tips
Using these tips can help you get through the day living with a tracheostomy.
Drink plenty of liquids (humidification). Normally, your nose and mouth would moisten the air you breathe to protect the lining of your lungs. With a tracheostomy tube, you have to moisten the air another way. That’s why it’s important to drink lots of liquid and use a humidifier or an “artificial nose.”
Avoid exposure to too much moisture. While a little moisture is good, too much can cause problems. When you shower, direct the shower spray at chest level and place a shower shield or protective covering over your tracheostomy tube. Be careful to keep soap and water away from the tube and stoma when washing your face. Also, take care to cover your tracheostomy tube when you are shaving or using powders, hair spray, etc., around your face and neck.
Suction more frequently when you are ill. If you vomit, cover the tracheostomy tube with an artificial nose or towel to keep vomit out of your airway. If you think vomit may have entered the tracheostomy tube, suction immediately. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, particularly if you have fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Watch for signs of infection. It’s important to avoid dust and mold, tobacco and other kinds of smoke, and fumes from cleaning solutions such as ammonia or bleach to help prevent infection. However, if you experience any of these signs — red, inflamed skin at the stoma; foul-smelling mucus; or bright red blood in mucus — notify your doctor.
Wear the right clothing. Make sure that your clothes don’t block the tracheostomy tube. Choose V-necks and open collar shirts or blouses instead of crew necks and turtlenecks. Also, don’t wear clothes that shed fibers or lint.
Take warm gear for cold outings. If it’s cold outside, wear an artificial nose or loosely cover the tracheostomy tube with a scarf, kerchief, or gauze. This helps to warm the air as you breathe so cold air doesn’t irritate your windpipe and lungs. It also helps keep out dust or dirt on windy days.
Problem-Solving Guide: 7 Common Symptoms and What to Do
Are you experiencing a problem with your tracheostomy? Are you unsure whether you can fix it yourself or need help from your doctor? Here’s a problem-solving guide to help you identify the cause of your symptom — and what you can do about it.
Symptom 1: Excessive air leaks through the nose and mouth
Symptom 2: The tube comes out of the neck opening
Symptom 3: It’s difficult to remove or insert the inner cannula for the fenestrated tube
Symptom 4: The tube, or any part of the tube, breaks or doesn’t work
Symptom 5: It’s difficult or impossible to pass a suction catheter through the trach tube
Symptom 6: The ventilator’s high-pressure alarm goes off
Symptom 7: The ventilator’s low-pressure alarm goes off
For more tips and resources, visit livingwithavent.com.
Disclaimer: The information and guidance presented in this blog post is informational only and not intended to influence practice or supersede the instructions for use of any specific device.
Acknowledgment: We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the following individuals to the production of this content: Marie Lemoine, MSN, RN, RCP; Rob St. John, MSN, RN, RRT; Paula Thompson, BS, RRT; and Missy Toigo, MA, CCC-SLP
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