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Blood in your child’s vomit or stool can be a sign of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. GI bleeding can be scary for you and your child. Many times, the cause of the bleeding is not serious. Still, your child should ALWAYS be seen by a doctor if GI bleeding occurs.
The GI tract is the path that food travels through the body. Food passes from the mouth down the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). Food begins to break down in the stomach. It then moves through the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. Nutrients are absorbed as food travels through the small intestine. What is left passes into the large intestine (colon) as waste. The colon removes water from the waste. Waste continues from the colon to the rectum (where stool is stored). Waste then leaves the body through the anus.
Your child’s GI bleeding may have been caused by many different problems. Some of the more common ones include:
Cuts or scrapes in the mouth or throat
Infection (bacteria, viruses, parasites)
Ulcer (sore on the lining of the GI tract)
Inflammation (swelling or irritation of the lining of the GI tract)
Polyps (growths of tissue)
Abnormal pouches in part of the GI tract
Tears in the anus
Hemorrhoids (swollen blood vessels in the rectum)
If blood is coming out with your child’s stool, it may signal a lower digestive tract problem. Bleeding from the lower GI tract can be bright red, or it may look dark and tarry. The doctor will start by examining your child and asking questions. Some tests may be ordered. These tests may include:
Hemoccult: a test that checks your child’s stool for blood.
Stool cultures: tests that check your child’s stool for bacteria or parasites.
X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan: tests that take pictures of the digestive tract.
Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy: a test during which a flexible tube with a camera is inserted through the anus into the rectum to view the inside of your child’s colon. This lets the doctor do a biopsy (take a tiny tissue sample).
If your child is vomiting blood, it may signal an upper digestive tract problem. The doctor may order certain tests, such as:
Endoscopy: a test during which a flexible tube with a camera is inserted through the mouth and throat to see inside the upper GI tract. This lets the doctor do a biopsy (take a tiny tissue sample).
Upper GI series: x-rays of the upper part of the GI tract taken from inside the body.
GI bleeding can sometimes be a sign of a serious problem. Call the doctor right away if you notice any of the following in your child:
Bleeding from the mouth or anus that can’t be stopped right away
Fever over 100.4°F
Child is unresponsive or lethargic (acts very sleepy)
Child is inconsolable (cannot be calmed or soothed)
Child is bleeding and becomes lightheaded or dizzy
Dehydration (symptoms include dry mouth, extreme thirst, no tears when crying, fewer than 6 wet diapers in a day or no urination in 6 hours, being fussy or upset)