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Umbilical Hernia in Children: Care Instructions

An umbilical hernia next to the belly button


An umbilical hernia is a bulge near the belly button, or navel. Intestines or other tissues may bulge through an opening or a weak spot in the stomach muscles. The hernia has a sac that may hold some intestine, fat, or fluid. A baby can be born with a hernia. But parents may not notice it until the umbilical cord stump falls off, which may be a few days to a couple of weeks after birth. Usually, umbilical hernias are not painful or dangerous.

Most umbilical hernias close on their own without treatment, usually in a baby's first year or by age 4 or 5 years. A child usually needs surgery only if the hernia is very large or has not gone away by the time the child is 4 or 5. While you wait for the hernia to close, watch for signs of any problems. In rare cases, the hernia can trap some of the intestine and cut off its blood supply. If this happens, your baby needs treatment right away.

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?

  • Watch for any signs that the hernia may be causing problems. Your baby's belly may get bigger, and the skin over the hernia may look red. Your baby may cry a lot and throw up. Call your doctor or nurse advice line right away if you see these signs.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your baby's belly gets bigger.
  • Your baby throws up a lot.
  • Your baby cries a lot and cannot be comforted.
  • Your baby seems to have a tender belly.
  • The skin over the hernia is red.

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?

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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.