Presence of blood in a toddler’s stool is definitely a matter of concern. However, there are many causes for blood being present in a toddler’s stool, some of which are not always a cause for concern. In fact, you will be surprised to know that bloody stools in toddlers is actually quite common. Read on to find out if you should be concerned if there is blood in your toddler’s poop.
Causes of Blood in Toddler’s Poop
There are many causes that can lead to the presence of blood in a toddler’s poop. Here are some of the most common causes:
Anal fissures are the most common cause of blood in a toddler’s stool. In fact, anal fissures are found to be the reason in 90 percent of cases where parents complain of seeing blood in their toddler’s poop.(1) An anal fissure is a small tear in the inner lining of the anus. When a toddler passes a large or hard stool, it can stretch and tear the delicate inside lining of the anus. Diarrhea can also cause irritation to the lining and lead to fissures.
But how do you detect if your child has an anal fissure? If your toddler has an anal fissure, you are likely to notice streaks of blood on the stool. You are also likely to find blood on the toilet paper after wiping.
Anal fissures are painful, so your child may complain of pain and itching in the rectum area that tends to get worse right after a bowel movement, or even during a bowel movement.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic health condition that causes inflammation of the intestine. Inflammatory bowel disease can also affect toddlers.(2, 3)
There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease:
- Ulcerative colitis, which only affects the large intestine or colon
- Crohn’s disease, which can impact any part of the gastrointestinal tract – from the mouth to the anus
- Both of these conditions involve an abnormal functioning of the immune system.
Inflammatory bowel disease is typically diagnosed in adults and teenagers, but in some cases, symptoms can set in before the age of 5. This happens in around four percent of children.(4)
Some of the common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease in children include:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Blood or mucus in stool
- Low energy levels
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
If you notice any of these symptoms along with blood in your toddler’s poop, then it is necessary to get a proper diagnosis. It is also essential to take extra care of a toddler with inflammatory bowel disease.(5)
Infection is also a possible cause for blood in your toddler’s stool. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites can also cause infections in the digestive tract, leading to bloody diarrhea in children. Some of the most common bacterial infections observed in children are:
- E. coli
Rotavirus is also another common infection, but most toddlers are vaccinated against this. Giardia lamblia is another parasite that can affect toddlers, causing bloody stools.
If your toddler is suffering from any of these infections, they are likely to be running a high fever, having abdominal pain and cramping, be lethargic and irritable.
Intestinal polyps, though more common in adults than in children, can sometimes also occur in toddlers. Known as juvenile polyps, it is the most common type of intestinal polyps to affect children. Polyps grow in the large intestine and usually develop before a child turns 10, particularly between the ages of 2 to 6 years.(6)
Juvenile polyps can also be a cause of blood and red tissue appearing in your toddler’s stool, along with severe abdominal pain. Here are some of the symptoms of juvenile polyps:(7)
- Blood in stool
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Chronic weight loss
- Anemia, or a shortage of red blood cells that causes weakness or fatigue
In some cases of juvenile polyps, the polyps are actually visible coming out of the anus.
Anal Fistula and Abscess
Toddlers who have a history of having frequent diarrhea or constipation are at a higher risk of developing anal and rectal abscesses, which can cause bloody stools.
Abscesses form when an anal cavity becomes infected, usually caused by bacteria, and pus starts oozing out of the affected area.
If the abscess does not heal and breaks open on the surface of the skin itself, then an anal fistula can develop. Both conditions are very painful.
If your toddler has developed an anal fistula or anal abscess, then they are likely to be very irritated, have swelling or a lump around their anus, they may be having anal discharge, and are likely to be in a lot of pain.
It is necessary to get the infection treated at the earliest in order to prevent it from worsening.
What are the Symptoms of Blood in a Toddler’s Poop?
Blood in your toddler’s stool can appear to be of different color depending on the underlying cause. The exact hue and intensity of the blood help doctors determine the exact place where the blood might be coming from.
For example, bright red blood is usually caused by bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. This can be in the case of rectal bleeding. On the other hand, black tarry stool is typically an indication that the blood is coming from somewhere in the upper gastrointestinal tract or from the stomach.
Other symptoms of blood in a toddler’s stool, such as a change in their pooping habits, pain, and tenderness in the anal area, also help doctors understand which area in the gastrointestinal tract the blood is coming from.
Blood present in the stool can be:
- Bright red and appears over the stool
- Black or tarry stool
- Dark maroon blood that is mixed in the poop
- Blood in stool accompanied by Diarrhea and Mucus
Blood in your toddler’s poop that is accompanied by diarrhea is likely to be caused by inflammatory bowel disease, a viral or bacterial infection, or parasitic infection.
On the other hand, if you notice mucus along with blood in your toddler’s stool, it is usually caused by inflammatory bowel disease, anal or rectal fistulas, or intestinal infections.
Mucus will appear to be thick and jelly-like, and is naturally produced by the body for lubricating and protecting the tissues from damage usually caused by bacteria and viruses. This is typically an indication that your toddler has an infection in the gastrointestinal tract.
Red Poop Does Not Always Mean Blood
When your toddler’s poop appears to be red or black in color, it does not always mean that it is blood. It is essential to realize that there are many foods and beverages, and even some medications that can alter the color of your child’s poop, making it appear red or black.
Some of the common causes of red stool can include:
- Kool-Aid and any red beverages
- Icing that contains red food coloring
- Antibiotics such as cefdinir (brand name Omnicef) and amoxicillin
Causes of black poop may include:
- Iron tablets
- Black licorice
- Frosting that contains dark or black food coloring
- Medications based on bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol
Remember that toddlers can often ingest foreign objects such as crayons, which can also alter the color of their poop.
Is There Any Treatment of Blood in Toddler’s Poop?
Treatment for finding blood in a toddler’s stool primarily depends on the underlying cause of the bleeding. Sometimes home remedies can help alleviate the discomfort caused by anal fissures. It is also possible to treat and prevent constipation and sometimes diarrhea as well. For other conditions that cause bloody stools, there are different medical treatments available. Here are some of the conventional therapies for some of the conditions.
Treating Constipation: The easiest way to treat and also prevent constipation in toddlers is to ensure they are getting plenty of fluids, eating foods high in fiber, and doing regular age-appropriate activities. Regular physical activities help keep a child’s bowels moving regularly, lowering the risk of constipation as well as anal fissures.
Lower The Risk Of Infection By Following Proper Hygiene: It is necessary to clean the area around your child’s anus after bowel movements. This reduces the risk of infection, especially if your child already has anal fissures. You should gently wash and dry the area after each bowel movement.
Use Petroleum Jelly Or Cream: If your child has an anal fissure, then until it heals, you should apply petroleum jelly or a zinc oxide-based cream around the anus. This layer of jelly or cream helps protect the anus from further irritation and also makes it easier for the child to pass stool without pain.
Using Antimicrobial Medications: Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics or anti-parasitic drugs for treating any infections of the gastrointestinal tract. Antibiotics can also treat bacterial abscesses and anal fistulas, and sometimes even inflammatory bowel disease. However, antibiotics do not work on viruses.
Medications for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: If your child is diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, then it is essential that you follow the medication schedule correctly. 5-aminosalicylates is the standard medication used for treating ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in children. Some other medicines for treating these conditions include biologics, corticosteroids, and immunomodulators. Your doctor may also recommend a combination of these medications.
Surgery: In rare cases, your doctor may recommend surgical intervention to remove polyps or for cauterizing the site of bleeding. Bleeding can sometimes be stopped by administering a chemical into the bleeding site during gastrointestinal endoscopy. This type of endoscopy is frequently used to diagnose the cause of blood in a child’s stool.
Most of the time, seeing blood in your toddler’s poop is not a cause of concern. Blood in stool is most commonly caused by anal fissures that result from constipation, which can be a common complaint in some children. This is not a serious condition, and there are many home remedies that can help treat this condition easily. However, any sign of blood in the stool should not be ignored and should be evaluated by your toddler’s doctor.
- Seattle Children’s Hospital. 2020. Stools – Blood In. [online] Available at: https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/stools-blood-in/ [Accessed 11 March 2020].
- Lebenthal, E., Branski, D. and Walker-Smith, J.A., 2009. Early-onset inflammatory bowel disease: infant, toddler, and pre-school. In Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Vol. 14, pp. 67-75). Karger Publishers.
- Walker-Smith, J.A., Lebenthal, E. and Branski, D. eds., 2009. Pediatric and inflammatory bowel disease: perspective and consequences (Vol. 14). Karger Medical and Scientific Publishers.
- Rosen, M.J., Dhawan, A. and Saeed, S.A., 2015. Inflammatory bowel disease in children and adolescents. JAMA pediatrics, 169(11), pp.1053-1060.
- Lee, M., 2009. Caring for children with IBD. gastrointestinal nursing, 6(10), pp.12-14.
- Mestre, J.R., 1986. The changing pattern of juvenile polyps. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 81(5).
- Desai, D.C., Neale, K.F., Talbot, I.C., Hodgson, S.V. and Phillips, R.K.S., 1995. Juvenile polyposis. British journal of surgery, 82(1), pp.14-17.