Pancreatitis: Care Instructions

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The pancreas and other digestive organs


The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach. It makes hormones and enzymes to help your body digest food.

But if these enzymes attack the pancreas, it can get inflamed. This is called pancreatitis. Most cases are caused by gallstones or by heavy alcohol use.

If you take care of yourself at home, it will help you get better. It will also help you avoid more problems with your pancreas.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Drink clear liquids and eat bland foods until you feel better. Bland foods include rice, dry toast, and crackers. They also include bananas and applesauce.
  • Eat a low-fat diet until your doctor says your pancreas is healed.
  • If you drink alcohol, quit or cut back as much as you can. It's safest not to use it at all. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counseling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Get extra rest until you feel better.

To prevent future problems with your pancreas

  • Avoid or limit alcohol.
  • Tell your doctors and pharmacist that you've had pancreatitis. They can help you avoid medicines that may cause this problem again.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • Your stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.
  • You are vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.