Blood and mucus in a child's stool can be alarming to parents. There are several causes of rectal bleeding, and doctors can determine the cause based on taking a careful history and an examination and through imaging and laboratory testing. Parents should always take their child to a doctor if they notice their child is passing blood in the stool to rule out a possibly serious diagnosis.
Intussusception is a possible cause of bleeding in children under 1 year of age. Intussusception is a condition in which part of the intestine becomes enclosed, or "telescoped", into another part. Symptoms of intussusception are sudden pain in the abdomen. The stool may be bloody and contain mucus and is sometimes described as similar to red currant jelly in appearance. This condition can sometimes be treated by passing an enema through the anus; if this fails to work, surgery is often necessary.
Diarrhea associated with blood is a worrisome symptom as it may be a sign of dysentery. Dysentery is caused by bacteria such as Shigella, Campylobacter, E. Coli and Yersinia. Amoebiasis is also a cause of dysentery. These bacteria have the capability of invading the intestinal wall. Affected children may often have an accompanying fever and stomach pain, and the diarrhea often contains blood and mucus. When these symptoms are present, parents should take their children to the emergency room where they can be rehydrated and treated with antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. According to "Nelson's Textbook of Pediatrics," about 25 percent of IBD diagnoses are made in individuals under 20 years of age; the condition may even begin in the first year of life. These diseases are thought to be due to abnormal immune reactions in the small and large intestines. Ulcerative colitis can cause blood and mucus in the stool. Other symptoms include urgency in passing stool and passage of stools during the night time. Crohn's disease is less likely to cause passage of blood in the stool, but this may also occur in some cases.
Meckel's diverticulum is a congenital abnormality of the small intestine which occurs in 2 percent of all individuals. The diverticulum is a small protrusion of the small intestine. Initial symptoms of Meckel's diverticulum occur in the first decade of life. The symptoms of the condition are variable. Some children may have painless bleeding and mucus in their stool, whereas other children may also have stomach pain. The bleeding and pain are due to abnormal gastric cells in the intestine, which produce acid. If this condition causes symptoms, the diverticulum is removed surgically.
Rectal prolapse can cause bleeding in the stool in a chronically constipated child. Foreign bodies with sharp edges are another cause of bleeding in younger children. Other causes of bleeding in the stool are vascular malformations, polyps and blood cancers.