Home Tube Feeding: Care Instructions
Tube feeding is a way of providing nutrition and fluids through a tube into the stomach or intestines. The tube may be inserted through the skin and into the stomach during surgery, or it may go through the mouth or nose, down the throat, and then into the stomach. Tube feeding can nourish people who have a short illness that makes swallowing difficult or people who have a severe illness, and it may prolong life.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Follow your doctor's instructions for use and care of the feeding tube. Your doctor will:
- Tell you what tube feeding formula and fluids to put through the tube.
- Show you how to care for the skin around the tube. Be sure to follow instructions on keeping the area clean.
- Teach you how to watch for infection or blockage of the tube.
- Tell you what activities you can do.
- Keep the formula in the refrigerator after opening it. Follow your doctor's instructions about how long formula that's in the hanging bag can sit out at room temperature.
For the caregiver
- Wash your hands before handling the tube and formula. Wash the top of the can of formula before you open it.
- Tube feedings that go into the stomach: The person you are caring for needs to be sitting up or have their head up during the feeding and for 30 to 60 minutes afterward. These feedings can be given in about 30 minutes, five or six times throughout a day.
- Tube feedings that go into the intestine: The person you are caring for will have a pump that slowly pushes the formula into the intestine over several hours. This is often done at night.
- If nausea, diarrhea, or stomach cramps happen during feeding, slow the rate that the formula comes through the tube. Then gradually increase the amount as the person can tolerate it.
- Flush the tube with plain water after each feeding to keep it clean. Do not put anything other than formula or water through the tube unless your doctor has told you to.
- Take care of yourself.
- Do not try to do everything yourself. Ask other family members to help, and find out what other types of help may be available.
- Eat well and get enough rest. Make sure you do not ignore your own health while you are caring for your loved one.
- Schedule time for yourself. Get out of the house to do things you enjoy, run errands, or go shopping.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the tube.
- Red streaks leading from the area where the tube is inserted.
- Pus draining from the tube area.
- A fever.
- The tube comes out or becomes blocked.
- You have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- You have any problems with your feeding.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: September 8, 2021