Blood in Stool of Babies and Toddlers

Blood in stool (poop, poo) is a worrying sign when seen in an adult. However, in infants and children, it is usually not a cause for concern. This page gives more information on why babies and toddlers get blood in the poop (poo, stool), including blood in diarrhea, and when you should be worried.

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What causes a baby or toddler to have bright blood in the stool (poop, poo)

There are a number of reasons a baby may have bright red blood in stool (poop, poo) or streaky blood in the poop (poo).

  • The most common cause is a hard stool (poop, poo), that occurs with constipation, causing a small tear in the baby's back passage (anus) that then bleeds. This is not a serious problem and all you need to do is manage the constipation - read more.
  • Newborn babies who are breast-feeding can have blood in the stool which is from a mother's cracked nipple. This is not a serious condition for the baby. The cracked nipple is not always obvious to you.
  • An infant who is having bouts of screaming and drawing up the legs, maybe with vomiting as well, who then passes what looks like red currant jelly in the bowel motion may have intussusception and you need to see your doctor urgently - read more.
  • Infants who have a cow' milk protein allergy may have blood in the stool (poop, poo), but they will probably have other symptoms as well, such as poor growth, irritability and maybe even a skin rash - read more.
  • A baby or toddler who has blood in the stool may also have a condition called a Meckels' diverticulum. If your toddler has blood in stool (poop, poo) over a long period or is pale, see your doctor for consideration for more tests.

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What causes a baby or toddler to have blood in diarrhea?

Bloody diarrhea can be caused by a bacteria. Most gastroenteritis causing diarrhea is viral but sometimes a bacteria can be the cause and antibiotics may be needed. If your infant or toddler has blood in diarrhea, see your doctor for a stool (poop, poo) test.

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What causes a baby or toddler to have black diarrhea (stool, poop, poo)?

Black stool (poop, poo) usually contains blood that has been altered by stomach acids. Babies or toddlers who have black diarrhea or stool (also called melena) have had bleeding in the top half of the gut. This can be for reasons that are not serious, like after vomiting with gastroenteritis when the lining of the esophagus can get little tears that bleed. This usually settles quickly within 24 hours.

Another common cause of blood in the stool of breast-fed babies is the mother having a cracked nipple. You may not see the crack but if your baby is breast fed and has blood in the poop (poo) then a cracked nipple is the most common cause. Because the blood is mixed with the milk, it goes through the stomach where is can be altered by stomach acid and become a black color. Usually there are black bits in an otherwise normal stool.

Melena (black stool) that persists can occasionally be due to other more serious causes but this is rare. See your doctor is melena persists or your child looks pale.

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When should I see my doctor for blood in stool?

See your doctor if:

  • you are very worried about your child
  • your child looks pale or is lethargic
  • your child has had crying episodes and then a red currant jelly stool
  • your child had blood in diarrhea
  • your child has had melena (black diarrhea / stool) which is not explained by a vomiting illness

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References

  • Pediatric Pearls. Rosenstein B, Fosareeli P, Douglas Baker M. 4th edition. Mosby 2002

To go to the top of the Blood in Stool page, click here

To go to the main Constipation page, click here

To go to the Newborn Baby page, click here

To go to the Gastoenteritis page, click here

To return to the Home page, click here


Last reviewed 23 May 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.



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