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Intussusception in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Intussusception means that one part of the intestine has folded into itself, like a telescope. This can happen anywhere along the intestinal tract. It usually happens between the lower part of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine.

The part of the intestine that folds inward may lose some or all of its blood supply. This section of the intestine becomes swollen and painful.

Intussusception often can be treated with an enema. This unfolds the intestine.

Intussusception needs to be treated right away. If not treated, it can cause life-threatening problems, such as an infection (peritonitis) or a hole or opening (perforation) in the intestine. The tissue may also die.

Intussusception that has been treated with an enema can come back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child rest until he or she feels better.
  • Give your child lots of fluids, enough so that the urine is light yellow or clear like water. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Gastrolyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. Give these drinks as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. Do not use them as the only source of liquids or food for more than 12 to 24 hours.
  • Give your child medicines exactly as directed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your child's stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new belly pain, or the pain gets worse.
  • Your child's pain becomes focused in one area of his or her belly.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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