It is important to note that constipation is quite common in children and typically caused by not drinking enough fluids, not enough fiber in the diet or having a diet that is high in constipating foods (cheese, whole milk and bananas).
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Children with constipation typically have either large-sized hard stools or hard, pellet-like stools. The bowel movements are also painful and infrequent.
Aside from the pain when passing stool, children with constipation can also experience cramping abdominal pain.
How to diagnose constipation
Children are usually diagnosed with constipation after a careful history and physical examination. In most cases, further testing is not needed anymore.
Always bear in mind that parents do not know how often their school-age children have bowel movements. This often delays the diagnosis of constipation. Careful attention must be given for children who experiences severe constipation from birth, particularly if the child was not able to pass meconium stools until 2-3 days after they were born. Remember that these children might have Hirshsprung’s disease.
Treatment for constipation
The treatment for childhood constipation typically includes stool softeners and changing the diet of the child to a less constipating diet which includes more fluids and fiber. The suitable choices of fluids include prune and apple juice as well as switching the child to soy milk or low-fat milk. It is important to read the food labels to help find suitable high fiber foods.
Vital facts about constipation
If a child is having soft bowel movements, he/she is not likely constipated even if he/she does not have one on a daily basis. In severe cases of constipation, some children develop a blockage in which liquid stool can oftentimes leak, resulting to soiling accidents which is called as encopresis.
The use of stool softeners and laxatives in children are not usually addictive and can be given on a daily basis. The usual mistake by most parents is that the stool softeners are no longer given once the child starts having soft bowel movements, only for the child to develop constipation again. Remember that stool softeners are often utilized for 4-6 months and then steadily reduced in order to prevent recurrences.
Polyethyline glycol 3350 is an odorless and tasteless powder that can be combined with water. This is well tolerated by most children and often prescribed by doctors for children suffering from constipation.
Aside from the dietary changes and the use of stool softeners, many children with constipation require a clean out regimen to help remove backed up stool. In addition, there is no need to utilize frequent enemas or laxatives to help the child move his/her bowels.
On the other hand, if the child is severely constipated or there is bleeding, it is recommended to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis of the condition.