Child care: Dealing with constipation

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Constipation might be hard to determine among children. This is due to the varying bowel patterns where one child might go 2-3 days without bowel movement but not constipated while one have frequent bowel movements but has trouble passing out stool.

Constipation might go unnoticed if the child passes a small stool each day while the accumulation of stool develops in the colon. Generally, it is recommended to watch out for the following indications if constipation is suspected.

  • Among newborns, firm stools occur less than once a day but this is normal in some infants who are breastfed exclusively.
  • Among older children, stools are hard and compact with 3-4 days between bowel movements.
  • At any age, stools are hard, large and compact with 3-4 days between bowel movements.
  • Episodes of abdominal pain that is alleviated after a large bowel movement.
  • Blood in or on the outside of the stools.
  • Soiling between bowel movements.

What are the causes?

Episodes of abdominal pain that is alleviated after a large bowel movement.

Constipation typically occurs if the muscles at the end of the large intestine tightens, thus preventing the stool from passing normally. If the stools remain for a longer time, it becomes firm and drier which makes it harder to pass without discomfort. Since bowel movement is painful, the child might consciously hold it in that can worsen the condition.

Management of constipation

Mild or occasional episodes of constipation can be alleviated with the following measures:

  • If constipation is due to breastmilk, it is uncommon. A doctor should be consulted first before substituting formula for breastmilk.
  • For infants, a doctor should be consulted about providing small amounts of water or prune juice. Additionally, fruits can often help the child.
  • For toddlers or older children who are already eating solid foods, it is best to add high-fiber foods in the diet such as plums, prunes, apricots, raisins, whole-grain cereals, high-fiber vegetables and bread products.

In severe cases, the doctor might prescribe a mild laxative or enema.

Preventive measures

  • Encourage the child to drink more fluids and eat high-fiber foods
  • Help the child establish a regular toilet routine
  • Encourage the child to stay physically active with exercise and a balanced diet

If worried about the bowel movements of the child, a doctor should be consulted. It might only require a change in the diet and exercise.

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