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Gastrointestinal Bleeding in Children: Care Instructions

digestive system

Your Care Instructions

The digestive or gastrointestinal tract goes from the mouth to the anus. It is often called the GI tract.

Bleeding can happen anywhere in the GI tract. It may be caused by an ulcer, an infection, or cancer. It may also be caused by medicines like aspirin or ibuprofen.

Light bleeding may not cause any symptoms at first. But if your child continues to bleed for a while, he or she may feel very weak or tired.

Sudden, heavy bleeding means your child needs to see a doctor right away. This kind of bleeding can be very dangerous. But it can usually be cured or controlled. The doctor will want to do some tests to find the cause of the bleeding.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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 advice line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Do not give anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), without talking to your doctor first. Ask your doctor if it is okay to give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • The bleeding may make your child lose iron. So it's important for your child to eat foods that have a lot of iron. These include red meat, shellfish, poultry, and eggs. They also include beans, raisins, whole-grain breads, and leafy green vegetables. If you want help planning meals for your child, you can meet with a dietitian.

When should you call for help?

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

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

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

  • Your child's stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.
  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed or feels like he or she may faint.
  • Your child has belly pain.
  • Your child vomits or has nausea.
  • Your child has trouble swallowing, or it hurts when he or she swallows.

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

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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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.