What Can Cause Bloody Stool in Babies?

Alex Tree

Allergic colitis and blocked intestines are possible causes of bloody stool in babies. In addition, red food dye can make a baby’s stool appear reddish and bloody, though the baby is likely unharmed by this. Some doctors note that most babies get bloody stool at least once, and it is usually nothing to be concerned about. To be on the safe side, it is important to check with the baby’s pediatrician whenever his or her health seems amiss.

Blocked intestines may cause bloody stool in babies.
Blocked intestines may cause bloody stool in babies.

Sometimes a baby will have an allergic reaction to something he or she or the mother consumed. For example, lactose and protein intolerances are common. A lactose intolerance occurs when the mother eats dairy products and then breastfeeds her child or if the child is fed with infant formula rather than breast milk. Protein intolerences are usually the fault of formulas that contain soy. In all cases, the allergen can be avoided and the bloody stool should lessen and disappear.

A lactose intolerance may cause bloody stool in babies.
A lactose intolerance may cause bloody stool in babies.

Intussusception happens when part of a baby’s bowel slides into another part. This traffic jam creates a blockage, leaving the baby unable to pass some stool. The stool that is passed is usually thick, jelly-like, and red. Bloody stool in babies caused by such a blockage is often accompanied by a swollen abdomen, grunts of pain, and vomiting. Blocked intestines signify an emergency situation that needs treatment right away.

Red food dye is usually a harmless cause of apparently bloody stool in babies. It colors the baby’s stool a pink or red color, which can easily be mistaken for blood. On the other hand, most infants do not eat foods with dyes in them before they start on solid foods at four to six months of age. Bloody stool may therefore be cause for concern if the baby has not consumed any foods with red dye in them.

While some doctors are dismissive of bloody stool in babies that does not reoccur, it is safest to err on the side of caution. Taking a quick mental note of the texture and color of the stool and then calling a health professional can put a parent’s mind at ease and help prevent serious problems from getting worse. In many cases, a nurse or doctor can say offhand whether a baby’s stool requires a doctor’s visit. If the health professional is unsure, he or she will ask for an appointment to ensure the baby’s health.

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