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Melena in Children

AMBULATORY CARE:

Melena

is blood in your child's bowel movements. This is caused by bleeding in your child's upper gastrointestinal (GI) system or large bowel. Your child's bowel movements may be black or tarry, and have a foul odor. They may also be shiny or sticky.

Digestive Tract

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has signs of shock from blood loss, such as the following:
    • Feeling dizzy or faint, or breathing faster than usual
    • Pale, cool, clammy skin
    • A fast pulse, large pupils, or feeling anxious or agitated
    • Nausea or weakness

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child continues to have blood in his or her bowel movements after treatment.
  • Your child has severe pain in his or her abdomen.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment

will depend on the cause. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicine may be given to reduce the amount of acid your child's stomach produces. This may help if your child's melena is caused by an ulcer. Your child may also need medicine to prevent blood flow to an injury or tear.
  • Endoscopy may be used to treat the cause of your child's bleeding. Your child's healthcare provider may use heat to close a tear. He or she may clip tissue together so it can heal. Bands may be placed around bleeding varices to help them stop bleeding.
  • A blood transfusion may be needed if your child loses a large amount of blood.
  • Surgery may be needed if your child has severe bleeding or other treatments do not work. Surgery may be used to fix a tear in the lining of your child's stomach or intestine. Your child may need surgery to remove an obstruction or a tumor.

Help your child manage or prevent melena:

  • Do not give your child NSAIDs or aspirin. These medicines can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Talk to your healthcare provider about other pain medicines that are safe for your child to take.
  • Do not let your child have drinks that contain caffeine. Caffeine can irritate your child's stomach. The lining of his or her stomach or intestines may also be damaged.
  • Offer your child a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, and legumes such as lentils. Healthy foods can help your child heal and improve his or her energy. A dietitian or your child's healthcare provider can help you plan healthy meals and snacks for your child.
  • Have your child drink extra liquids as directed. Liquids can help your child's digestive system work properly. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him or her.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.