[Skip to Content]

Nasogastric Tube (NG Tube)

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD

What Is a Nasogastric Tube?

A nasogastric (NG) tube is a thin, soft tube that goes in through the nose, down the throat, and into the stomach. They're used to feed formula to a child who can't get nutrition by mouth. Sometimes, kids get medicine through the tube.

NG tubes are used for short periods of time, usually a few weeks to months.

Who Needs an NG Tube?

Kids need NG tubes when they can't eat and drink enough to stay healthy. This may happen when:

  • a baby is born early
  • a child has trouble swallowing
  • a child has a digestive problem or inflammation of the digestive tract
  • a child needs extra calories

What Happens During NG Tube Placement?

In the hospital, a health care provider trained in placing NG tubes can insert the tube at a child's bedside. When they do this short procedure, they:

  • Measure the tube against the child to be sure it's the right length.
  • Lubricate the tube with water or a special jelly.
  • Insert the tube into a nostril and guide it down the esophagus, into the stomach.
  • Check to make sure the NG tube is placed correctly.
  • Tape the tube to the child's cheek to hold it in place.

Are There Any Risks From NG Tube Placement?

Inserting the tube into the wrong place is a risk of NG tube placement. That's why it's important to be sure the end of the tube reaches into the stomach.

How Do I Care for the NG Tube at Home?

If your child has an NG tube, it's normal to feel a little bit nervous about it at first. But soon you'll feel confident about giving feeds and changing it.

Here are some tips:

  • Always wash your hands well before caring for the NG tube or giving a feed or medicine.
  • Check that the tube is placed into the stomach and is working well before you use it.
  • Know what to do if the tube gets blocked or comes out.
  • Keep the area around your child's nose clean using gauze pads and warm water.
  • Check the skin around the nose regularly for signs of irritation or infection, like redness, tenderness, warmth, swelling, or drainage.
  • Switch nostrils each time you change the NG tube.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the care team if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • a swollen or hard belly
  • bleeding from the nose or mouth
  • vomiting
  • belly pain
  • blood in the stool (poop)
  • a fever
  • a cough
  • fussiness or irritability

If your child has trouble breathing or is choking:

  1. Stop the feed.
  2. Remove the tube.
  3. Call your care team.
  4. Call 911 if the problems continue.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: November 2019