Adjusting to Life With a Tracheostomy Tube: Here’s What You Should Know

Posted October 20, 2022 by in Health + Fitness

Adjusting after any major surgery is going to be a difficult chapter of your life, especially when it’s something as serious as a tracheostomy. At first, it’s very likely that you even struggle to breathe comfortably. However, this is completely normal and there’s nothing to be afraid of. 

In this blog, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about adjusting to life with a tracheostomy tube. Before we begin, let’s explore what this operation entails and why some people need this procedure in the first place. 

A tracheostomy is an operation that involves creating a surgical opening through the neck and placing a tube into the windpipe (trachea). This opening is made under the vocal cords and allows direct access to the trachea so all breathing bypasses the throat, mouth, and nose. 

So, in what instances may one require this type of surgery? Common reasons for a tracheostomy include: 

  • Blocked airway 
  • Coma 
  • Ventilator support 
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea 
  • Voice box injury 
  • Chronic lung disease 
  • Severe neck or mouth injuries 
  • Facial burns 
  • Vocal cord paralysis 
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Cancers or tumours affecting the head and neck 

Communicating 

Your first few weeks will be the most difficult to adjust to, especially when it comes to swallowing and communicating. After all, your body still needs to heal from this major operation. We recommend you keep a pen and paper nearby for the first few days until you get used to talking. 

Replace Your Tube Regularly 

Your doctor will recommend how often you should be changing and replacing your tracheostomy tube. However, as a rule of thumb, most tubes must be replaced every 1 to 3 months. The first few times a trained specialist will replace your tube until you learn how to do so yourself.   

Keep Your Stoma Clean 

The opening in your neck is known as a stoma and it’s essential that you keep this part of your body clean. If you feel like you need some extra humidification, we strongly recommend you use a thermovent heat and moisture exchanger. This product is both single-use and sterile, so you won’t have to worry about causing an infection. 

Take Care in the Shower 

Even something as simple as taking a shower needs to be carried out with care, as you’ll need to avoid any water from getting into your stoma and tube. Some things you can do to make showering easier include using a shower shield or covering your opening with a waterproof device. Similarly, you could choose to take a bath instead of a shower or stand with your back against the shower head. 

Avoid Strenuous Activity 

Just as any other major surgery, you should avoid strenuous activity during the recovery period. Although you can slowly work your way up towards physical activity, it’s best to avoid any excessive sweating. Similarly, you should stay clear from any activities that involve water or could result in you becoming submerged.   

Be Mindful of Your Wardrobe 

When you have a tracheostomy tube you need to ensure the clothes you wear are not restricting your ability to breathe. Make sure to wear clothes that are loose around your neck and will not cause discomfort. If you are venturing outside, make sure to wear something that will gently cover your opening. However, stay clear from clothing with loose fibres. 

Follow You Dietary Recommendations 

When it comes to your diet, your doctor will have a set of guidelines you should follow. However, we recommend that you chew all of your food as thoroughly as possible before swallowing to avoid any potential discomfort. Make sure no food or liquid gets into your tube and, if it does, make sure to suction the contents out immediately. Similarly, you should always sit upright whilst you eat.  

Relearning to conduct daily tasks with your tube may seem like a struggle at first. However, it’s important to know that you are not alone. You should have the support of your medical team and loved ones every step of the way. There are also plenty of online support groups of people going through the exact same thing as you.    

In some cases, your doctor may even recommend removing the tube once you can breathe independently or your injury has healed. Remember, it takes time to readjust to new habits, especially once you are a fully grown adult. However, you have the strength to carry on, power through, and start living your life to the maximum again.