When Your Child Needs a Stoma

When Your Child Needs a Stoma

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When Your Child Needs a StomaOutline of child's abdomen showing stomach and intestine. End of intestine goes through abdomen to make stoma.

If your child has a problem affecting the intestines, he or she may need a stoma (opening). A stoma provides a new way for stool and mucus to leave the body. During surgery to create a stoma, the colon or sometimes part of the small intestine is removed or disconnected. The end of the intestine is then rerouted through the abdominal wall. Waste leaves the body through the stoma and empties into a bag. It’s important to help care for your child’s stoma at home and to help your child adjust to having a stoma.

Why Is a Stoma Needed?

Your child needs a stoma if he or she has a problem with the intestines. This problem may be due to:

  • A congenital (present at birth) health problem (such as intestinal malrotation).

  • An illness that affects the intestines (such as ulcerative colitis).

  • An injury or surgery that affected the intestines.

A stoma is temporary to allow the intestines to heal after illness or surgery. Or, a stoma is permanent when the intestines are damaged or a large portion has been removed.

Outline of child's abdomen showing bag around stoma.

How Can You Help Your Child?

  • Before you and your child leave the hospital, you’ll be given home care instructions.

  • You’ll need to help your child care for the stoma and the skin around it. This means keeping the stoma and the skin clean. It also means protecting the skin from moisture and contact with stool. This helps to prevent skin soreness and breakdown. Follow all instructions given by your child’s health care provider.

  • The stoma bag will need to be emptied regularly, usually after every bowel movement. Become familiar with your child’s bowel habits. Know the consistency of the stool and the amount that’s normal.

  • Keep extra care supplies for your child’s stoma at home and at school.

  • The stoma shouldn’t be uncomfortable or painful for your child. But it may take some time for your child to get used to it. You can help your child by encouraging him or her to resume a normal routine:

    • Your child can be active like other children. Check with your child’s health care provider about what physical activities are appropriate for your child.

    • Your child can resume a normal diet unless told not to by your child’s health care provider.

    • Your child can wear the same clothing as before. Stoma bags are designed to lie flat against the body so they aren’t very noticeable.

  • Meet with your child’s caretakers or teachers and speak with them about your child’s needs. Make sure they know how to contact you or your child’s health care provider in case of a problem or emergency.

Child playing baseball.

Call the Doctor

Contact the doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Skin around the stoma is red, oozing, bleeding, or broken

  • Skin around the stoma itches, stings, or has white spots

  • Stoma swells, changes color, or bleeds without stopping

  • Stoma becomes even with or sinks below the surrounding skin, or it sticks out more than usual

  • Cramping or abdominal pain

  • Bowel movements that are more watery or that occur less often than usual

  • Bloody or black stool