Parents are often alarmed when they discover that their child has a bloody stool. Most bloody stools in children are caused by mild anal fissures, but can be from serious underlying conditions such as ulcerative colitis or intussusception that need immediate medical attention.
The most common cause for bloody stools in children are anal fissures. Anal fissures are shallow cracks or tears in the skin at the opening of a child's anus that bleed during bowel movements. Bloody stools as a result of anal fissures will have bright red blood in the stool or flecks and streaks on the surface of the stool as well as evidence of blood on the toilet paper after wiping. Stomach ulcers and gastritis can also cause children to have bloody stools. Intestinal infections such as Salmonella and rotavirus may also cause bloody stools. Food allergies, such as allergic reactions to lactose in dairy products can cause bloody stools in children that can persist until the food is removed from the child's diet.
Ulcerative colitis can cause bloody stools in children that are loose and often covered in mucus. Ulcerative colitis.is a serious condition that can cause fever and weight loss in addition to bloody stools in children and must be treated by a physician immediately. Intussusception is a condition where there is an interruption to the blood flow and supply to the child's intestines that can also cause bloody stools. Both conditions can cause the intestinal tissue to die, causing serious complications if not treated promptly. Colorectal cancer, is a rare cancer found in children that causes abdominal pain, changes in bowel movements and can also cause bloody stools in children.
Children who are experiencing persistent bloody stools may need to undergo endoscopic diagnostics to find out the cause of bleeding. An endoscopy can be inserted through the rectum to allow the doctor to analyze and take photographs of the colon and intestines, take biopsy tissue samples and possibly stop any bleeding. Other testing methods include a CT Scan, barium x-rays and an angiography. According to the Hopkins Children Hospital, angiography is the best option for patients who have acute bleeding using dye to locate the site of bleeding and can also allow the injection of medication to stop bleeding issues.
Medications such as iron preparations and those that contain bismuth compounds can cause stools that appear dark or bloody but are harmless. The dark, blood-like stools disappear when your child quits taking the medications. Various foods such as beets, red gelatin and foods with red food coloring may also cause stools to appear bloody and are not a reason for concern.
According to Annie Stine of the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, Intussusception, a serious intestinal condition that results in inflamed, swollen and blocked intestines affects about 2,500 children each year. Intussusception most commonly affects children under the age of 3 and can cause bloody stools that appear to resemble a dark red, jelly like texture. Bloody stools of this type should be addressed immediately by your pediatrician or a trip to the emergency room to prevent life-threatening complications.