Open Bowel Resection in Children: What to Expect at Home

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Your Child's Recovery

The digestive system
Part of your child's large or small intestine (bowel) has been taken out. Your child is likely to have pain that comes and goes for the next few days.

He or she may have bowel cramps, and the cut (incision) may hurt.

Your child may also have a low fever and feel tired and nauseated. This is common. Your child should feel better after a week and will probably be back to normal in 2 to 4 weeks.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?

Activity

  • Make sure that your child rests when tired. Getting enough sleep will help with recovery. Have your child sleep with his or her head raised on three or four pillows. Your child can also try to sleep with his or her head up in a lounger chair. Don't let your child sleep on the side or stomach.
  • Take your child for a walk each day. Make each walk a little longer than the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount your child walks. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games, or take part in gym class until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Your child may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if the doctor okays it. Your child should not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until the doctor tells you it is okay.

Diet

  • Your child may not have much appetite after the surgery. But try to have him or her eat a healthy diet. The doctor will tell you about any foods your child should not eat.
  • Have your child eat a low-fibre diet for several weeks after surgery. Give him or her many small meals throughout the day. Add high-fibre foods a little at a time.
  • Encourage your child to eat yogurt. It puts good bacteria into your child's colon and helps prevent diarrhea.
  • Make sure that your child avoids nuts, seeds, and corn for a while. They may be hard to digest.
  • Your child may need to take vitamins that contain sodium and potassium. Ask your doctor.
  • Make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to the stomach:
    • Give your child the medicine after meals (unless your child's doctor tells you not to).
    • Ask your child's doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • You may need to give your child some medicines in a different form. You will be told whether to crush pills or give your child a liquid form of the medicine.
  • If the doctor gives your child a stool softener, give it as directed.

Incision care

  • If your child has strips of tape on the incision the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.

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.

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 has severe trouble breathing.

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

  • Your child has severe or increasing pain.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Your child bleeds so much from the incision that he or she soaks one or more bandages over 2 to 4 hours.
  • Your child has trouble passing urine or stool.
  • Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

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?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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