Discharge Instructions: Your Child’s Colostomy

Your child has a colostomy. This procedure involved cutting part of the colon (large intestine). Part of it may have been removed. The end of the colon was then attached to a small hole made in the belly (abdominal) wall. This creates an opening in the skin called a stoma. Stool and mucus pass out of the body through this opening into a holding bag. Depending on the location of the colostomy, your child's stool may be loose to formed.

Below are guidelines for home care after a colostomy. The healthcare provider and nursing staff will give you additional instructions for your child. An ostomy nurse may see you in the hospital to go over questions and teach you about your child's home care. 

Home care

Care for your child’s healing stoma as you were shown by the nurse. Ask your child’s provider for an instruction sheet about stoma care. This will help remind you how to care for the stoma.

After surgery

Be sure to do the following after surgery:

  • Care for your child’s stoma as instructed.

  • Unless told not to, wash the surgical incision(s) with soap and water and pat dry. Your child can shower or bathe as needed, but avoid having water spray right on the incision.

  • Check the healing incision(s) every day for redness, drainage, swelling, or pulling apart of the skin.

  • Follow all instructions from the provider about watching the amount of output into the colostomy bag.

  • Keep your child from lifting anything heavier than 5 pounds until the provider says it’s OK.

  • Keep your child from rough play and contact sports. But let your child be active, such as taking walks. If traveling in a car for long periods, stop often to let your child stretch.

  • Ask the provider when your child can return to school. Most children are able to do so within 2 to 3 weeks after surgery.

  • Give your child any prescribed medicines as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • Don’t give your child over-the-counter medicines unless the provider says it’s OK.

Special notes

  • A stoma can be temporary (used for a short time) or permanent (used long term). Your child’s provider can tell you more.

  • Tell your child’s teachers and the school nurse that your child has a colostomy.

  • A colostomy bag doesn’t smell and can be hidden under clothing. The bag can be emptied into a toilet.

  • A child with a colostomy can still play most sports. Talk to the provider about your child’s special needs.

  • Complications may take place with longer-term colostomies. These problems can include a hernia near the stoma, narrowing of the stoma, or skin breakdown,


Make follow-up appointments, or see the provider as otherwise advised.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call the provider right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Excessive bleeding from the stoma

  • Bulging skin around the stoma

  • Shaking and chills

  • Fever of 100.4 (38°C) or higher or as directed by your child's provider

  • Redness, swelling, bleeding, or drainage from the incision

  • Redness, swelling, or drainage from the stoma 

  • Change in the color or size of the stoma

  • Signs of dehydration, such as excessive stoma output, dry mouth, extreme thirst, or no tears when crying

  • Bloody or black, tarry stool

  • Stool that is more watery than normal for more than 5 hours

  • Very hard stool

  • No gas or stool leaving the stoma

  • Nausea, vomiting, pain, cramping, or bloating

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