When Your Child Needs an Upper Endoscopy

An upper endoscopy is a test that shows the inside of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This includes the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). The doctor can take tissue samples (biopsy), check for problems, or remove objects. The test normally takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

Outline of child with head turned to side showing endoscope inserted into mouth, esophagus, stomach, and ending in duodenum (first part of small intestine).

Before the test

  • Don’t give your child anything to eat or drink for at least 4 to 6 hours before the test, or as instructed by the medical staff. 

  • Follow all other instructions given by the doctor.

Let the healthcare provider know

For your child’s safety, let the healthcare provider know if your child:

  • Is allergic to any medicine, sedative, or anesthesia

  • Is taking any medicine, especially aspirin

  • Has heart or lung problems

During the test

An upper endoscopy is performed by a doctor in an office, testing center, or hospital. During the test you can expect the following:

  • You can usually stay with your child in the testing room until your child falls asleep.

  • Your child lies on an exam table.

  • Your child is given a pain reliever and a medicine that makes them relax or sleep (sedative). This is done through an IV line. Or your child is given medicine that makes your child sleep (anesthesia) by facemask or IV. A trained nurse or anesthesiologist helps with this process and also monitors your child. Special equipment is used to check your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels.

  • Your child’s throat is numbed with a spray or gargle.

  • A bite block is placed in your child’s mouth. This prevents your child from biting down on the endoscope.

  • The endoscope is guided down your child’s throat. This is a long, flexible tube with a light and a camera at the end. It doesn’t affect your child’s breathing.

  • Air is put through the endoscope to expand your child’s stomach and upper GI tract. 

  • Images of your child’s stomach and upper GI tract are viewed on a screen as the endoscope advances.

  • The doctor may take tissue samples or perform procedures, as needed.

After the test

  • Your child is taken to a recovery room. It may take 1 to 2 hours for the medicines to wear off.

  • Unless told not to, your child can return to his or her normal routine and diet right away.

  • The doctor may discuss early results with you after the test. You’re given complete results when they’re ready.

Helping your child prepare

You can help your child by preparing them in advance. How you do this depends on your child’s needs:

  • Explain that the doctor is testing the upper GI tract. Use brief and simple terms to describe the test. Younger children have shorter attention spans, so do this shortly before the test. Older children can be given more time to understand the test in advance. 

  • As best you can, describe how the test will feel. An IV is inserted into the arm to give medicines. This may cause a brief sting. Your child won’t feel anything once the medicines take effect.

  • Allow your child to ask questions.

  • Use play when helpful. This can involve role-playing with a child’s favorite toy or object. It may help older children to see pictures of what happens during the test. 

When to call the healthcare provider 

Call your healthcare provider right away if your child:

  • Coughs up a large amount of blood right after the test

  • Has a sore throat that doesn’t go away

  • Has chest pain that doesn’t go away

  • Has abdominal pain that doesn’t go away

  • Has problems swallowing

  • Fever (see Fever and children below)


Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.