Bowel Blockage (Intestinal Obstruction) in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A bowel blockage can prevent gas, fluids, or solids from moving through the intestines as they should. This is also called an intestinal obstruction. It can cause constipation. Your child may have pain, nausea, vomiting, and cramping. In rare cases, the blockage can cause diarrhea.

Complete blockages require a stay in the hospital. Your child may need surgery. If your child has had surgery for a bowel blockage, there are things you can do at home to make sure your child heals well.

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?

  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her 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.
  • Have your child rest when he or she feels tired.
  • If your child had surgery:
    • He or she may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if your doctor says it is okay. Pat the cut (incision) dry. Do not let your child take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
    • If your child has strips of tape on the cut (incision), leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry.
    • Your child may not have much of an appetite after the surgery. But try to have your child eat a healthy diet. Your doctor will tell you about any foods your child should not eat.

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 pain or swelling in his or her belly.
  • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your child's stools are maroon or very bloody.
  • Your child can't pass any stools or gas.

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

  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child cannot keep fluids or medicines down.
  • Your child has new pain that gets worse when he or she moves or coughs.
  • Your child's symptoms become much worse than usual.

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.
  • Your child has steady diarrhea for more than 2 weeks.
  • Your child loses weight.

Where can you learn more?

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

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