How to Treat Infections Around a Feeding Tube

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A feeding tube (gastrostomy tube) is placed through the abdomen into the gastrointestinal system, which allows the feeding of liquid foods for nourishment. The tube insertion site, or stoma, may become infected and must be properly cared for to reduce this risk. Recognizing the signs of infection, such as redness at the tube insertion site, pus or unusual drainage, tenderness, and fever, is important for early treatment. While minor skin infections maybe able to be managed at home, always consult your physician if infection occurs at the feeding tube site.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap and water
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Clean gauze or bandages

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before touching the feeding tube site or handling any supplies needed to manage the feeding tube, such as gauze. Towel-dry your hands, or put on medical gloves if you have them, before touching the incision site or supplies.

Remove any dressings from the stoma. Determine whether infection appears to be mild or more serious. Examine the skin around the tube for redness, dampness or swelling, pus or foul-smelling discharge. Consult your physician immediately with your findings for further recommendations, if needed.

Wash the skin around the stoma gently with warm, soapy water. Carefully remove any crusts or buildup around the incision if you are able. Dry the area completely with a clean towel.

Apply antibiotic cream to the tip of a clean cotton swab. Apply the cream liberally around the stoma, or to any skin that looks infected. Cover with a nonstick pad, if available. Add clean gauze or padding to the stoma site, or replace with the dressing of your choice.

Tips & Warnings

  • Follow the feeding tube care instructions provided by your physician for specific information on caring for your feeding tube, and skin at the insertion site, at home.
  • Infection risk may be greater in the first few days following feeding tube insertion. See a physician immediately if symptoms of infection occur in the first week following tube insertion, or any time the site appears infected.

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