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Colostomy in Children: What to Expect at Home

Location of colon in the body, with colostomy bag placed over a stoma and closeup view of a stoma.

Your Child's Recovery

Part of your child's colon has been removed or separated from the rest of the colon. This is most often done because of a disease. During the colostomy, the surgeon made a hole in your child's belly. Then the surgeon connected part of the colon to that opening in the skin. This opening is called the stoma.

After a colostomy you can expect your child to feel better and stronger each day. But he or she may get tired quickly at first. Your child's belly may be sore. He or she will probably need pain medicine for a week or two. The stoma will be swollen at first. This is normal.

Your child may have very loose stools in the colostomy bag for a while. In time the stools may become firmer. But they will be less solid than before the surgery. Your child may also have a lot of gas pass into his or her colostomy bag in the weeks after surgery. This will happen less as your child heals.

Your child will probably need several weeks to get back to his or her normal routine.

An ostomy nurse or other member of your child's care team will show you and your child how to care for the stoma and pouch after you go home.

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

  • Have your child rest when he or she feels tired.
  • Allow your child's body to heal. Don't let your child move quickly or lift anything heavy until he or she is feeling better or until your doctor says it's okay to do so.
  • Your child can do his or her normal activities, school, and work in 2 to 4 weeks. But check with your doctor first.

Diet

  • Your child may not have much appetite after the surgery. But try to help your child eat a healthy diet.
  • Have your child drink plenty of water.
  • Give your child a low-fibre diet for several weeks after surgery. It's best for your child to eat many small meals throughout the day. Add high-fibre foods a little at a time.
  • Your doctor will tell you which foods are best for your child and which ones to avoid. This will help prevent too much gas, runny stools, or blockage of the stoma.
  • Your child may need to take vitamins that contain sodium and potassium. Ask your doctor.

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • 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 the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter 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.
  • 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.
  • Your doctor will tell you if your child needs to take some medicines in a different form now that your child has a stoma. You may need to crush pills or give your child a liquid form of the medicine.

Hygiene

  • Your doctor will tell you when your child can shower after surgery. Your child can shower with or without the colostomy bag. You don't need to worry about getting soap or water inside the stoma.

Incision care

  • If your child has strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.
  • You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing.

Other instructions

  • Keep the area around your child's stoma clean and dry.
  • Follow all instructions from your doctor or ostomy nurse.
  • Empty and replace your child's colostomy bag as often as directed by your doctor or ostomy nurse.

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 is short of breath.

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

  • Your child has pain that does not get better after he or she takes pain medicine.
  • 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.
  • Your child is sick to his or her stomach or can't keep down fluids.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Your child is bleeding through the bandage.
  • The skin around your child's stoma is red, broken, or too wet.
  • You have trouble attaching the bag to the stoma.
  • Your child's stoma has bloody discharge or seems to be blocked.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child's stoma sticks out above the skin or has sunk below it.
  • Your child has any problems with his or her stoma.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.