In children, constipation is a very common problem. A child who has chronic constipation has very less frequent bowel movements.
Changes in diet and early toilet training are common causes. Luckily, most of the time, constipation in children is not permanent.
Motivating your child to make some simple changes in diet like eating more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and drinking more water, can help very much in eliminating constipation. It is possible to treat your child’s constipation with laxatives if the child’s doctor allows.
In children, signs and symptoms may consist of:
• Pain in the stomach
• Pain while having bowel movements
• Hard, dry, and very difficult to pass bowel movements
• The surface of hard stool consists of blood
• In a week, less than three bowel movements
• Your child’s underwear consists of traces of pasty or liquid stool- an indication that stool is held up in the rectum
If your child is having a hard time while having bowel movements then he or she may try to avoid it. You may observe that your child is trying to hold tight his or her buttocks, crossing his or her legs, or making expressions while trying to hold the stool.
When to see a doctor?
Usually, in children, constipation is not a serious situation. However, chronic constipation may lead to unwanted complications or signal an underlying condition. Take your child to a doctor if the duration of constipation goes more than two weeks or is accompanied by:
• Abdominal swelling
• Difficulty and pain during bowel movements
• Rapid weight loss
• Avoiding eating
The most common cause of constipation is the slow movement of waste or stool through the digestive tract which makes the stool hard and dry.
There are many factors which can create constipation in children, including:
• Refrainment: Your children may ignore the bowel movement as he or she is afraid of the toilet or doesn’t want to stop playing. Some children hold themselves when they are not at their home as they try to avoid using public toilets.
Also, the past experience of painful bowel movement may lead to withholding as if it hurts to poop, your child may try to delay or avoid to go through that painful experience again.
• Toilet training issues: If you start toilet training too early, your child may try to rebel and hold in stool. If the training of the toilet becomes a battle of wills, it becomes a habit that is tough to change.
• Changes in diet: If your child’s food is not consisting of enough fiber-rich fruits and vegetables then this can cause constipation. Also, constipation may happen when your child is switching from an all-liquid diet to one that also includes solid foods.
• Changes in routine: Changes in the routine of your child may also affect his or her bowel function. Children are also more likely to experience when they start their schooling.
• Medications: Some kind of drugs (like antidepressants) also can create constipation.
• Cow's milk allergy: Sometimes consuming too many dairy products can cause constipation.
• Family history: Sometimes because of shared genetic ad environmental factors, children are most likely to develop constipation.
Constipation problem is more likely to affect kids who:
• Are not active
• Avoid eating fiber
• Avoid drinking enough fluids
• Take certain medications, including some antidepressants
• Have a medical condition affecting the anus or rectum
• Suffer from a neurological disorder
Even if constipation in children can be troublesome, normally it isn’t serious. If chronic constipation happens, complications may include:
• Painful breaks in the skin around the anus (anal fissures)
• Stool withholding
• Avoiding bowel movements because of pain, may cause involuntary defection
To help prevent constipation in children:
• Your child should eat high-fiber foods: A fiber-rich diet can help your child in improving the bowel movement. Try to serve your child more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, and bread which are high in fiber. In the beginning, just start with adding several grams of fiber a day which will prevent gas and bloating, if your child is not used to fiber-rich food. In your child’s every 1000 calories diet, the recommended intake of dietary fiber is 14 grams. For younger children this intake of dietary fiber is 20 grams a day
• Try to motivate your child to drink more water: Nothing is better than water for alleviating the constipation problem.
• Encourage your child to indulge in more physical activity: A medium to the high-intensity level of physical activity helps in maintaining good bowel movement.
• Try to make a toilet schedule: After every meal, try to put your child in a schedule of the toilet, on a usual basis. If it is required, provide a footstool to your child so that he can comfortably release the stool.
• Prepare your child to notify when it's nature’s call: Usually children get so much involved in playing that they just forget about their bowel movement. This kind of ignorance can be a potential cause of constipation.
• Always support your child: Always reward your child whatever effort he/she is making to move their bowel. You can reward them with toys and their other favorite games. And don’t get angry or punish your child who has spoiled his/her underwear.
• Try to keep a tab on medication: If your child is on medication and you are feeling that it is causing constipation then ask your doctor about it.