What is constipation in children?
Constipation in children is a common problem. A child with constipation has infrequent bowel movements or hard, dry stools. Normal causes incorporate early latrine preparation and changes in diet. Luckily, most instances of constipation in children are transitory.
Encouraging your child to make simple diet changes – such as eating more fibre-rich fruits and vegetables and drinking more water – can go a long way towards relieving constipation. If your child’s doctor approves this, it may be possible to treat your child’s constipation with laxatives.
Types of constipation in children
- Idiopathic constipation: This is common. The word idiopathic means unknown cause. There may be various factors (we discuss them later) but many children become constipated without a known cause:
- Short bouts of constipation: It’s common for babies and children to have a bout of mild constipation for a day or so. This may settle quickly, often without medical treatment.
- Long-term constipation: In about 1 in 3 children who develop constipation, the problem becomes long-term (persistent). This is also called chronic idiopathic constipation.
Constipation due to an underlying disease or condition: This is uncommon. Constipation in children is said to be secondary to this other problem. Some examples of conditions and problems that can cause constipation are:
- Certain neurological conditions
- An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Rare diseases with abnormal growth of the intestine, such as Hirschsprung’s disease
- As a side effect of some medicines that the child must take for another condition
Treatment may include treating the underlying condition (if applicable) in addition to treating constipation. Alarming symptoms or signs that may indicate a secondary cause include the following. It should be mentioned to your GP. It is also possible that some of these symptoms indicate that your child is not feeling well:
- Being sick (vomiting)
- Weight loss or failure to gain weight (flourish)
- Swollen and tight stomach
- Sharp pain
- A baby who does not have a bowel movement for the first time (called meconium) within the first 48 hours of life
- Deformities of the back passage (anus) – eg, if it is closed
- Nervous system problems (neurological) such as weakness or paralysis of the legs
- Sores or sores near the anus
- Extreme thirst
- Urinary symptoms – such as passing large amounts of urine, being very dark urine, or painful urination accompanied by the smell of urine
- Very pale-coloured stools (especially if the urine is also very dark)
What are the symptoms of constipation in children?
Symptoms of constipation in children may include your baby
- Defecate less than twice a week
- Passing hard, dry, or lumpy stools
- Having hard or painful stools
- He tells you he feels he hasn’t passed all the stool
- Change positions to avoid or delay a bowel movement, incl
- He stands on tiptoes and then swings on his heels
- Catch the buttocks
- Doing unusual dance-like movements
- Flatulence or bloating
- Day or night hydration
- The stool in his underwear looks like diarrhea
If your child avoids or delays a bowel movement, he may develop a faecal impaction.
What causes constipation in children?
Constipation in children occurs frequently for a number of reasons.
- Diet changes, or insufficient fibre or fluid in your child’s diet, can lead to constipation.
- If your child is sick and has lost their appetite, a change in their diet can cause them to become constipated. Constipation might be a result of certain drugs. Constipation may be caused by certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism).
- Your child may block their chair for various reasons. He may refrain from passing stools to avoid the pain from passing hard stools, which can be more painful if your baby has a bad nappy rash. Or he might be dealing with issues of independence and control – this is common between ages 2 and 5. Your child may also refrain from playing simply because he does not want to take a break from playing. Your older child may block out when he is away from home, in the camp, or in school, because he is embarrassed or uncomfortable using the public toilet.
- Other changes: In general, any changes in your child’s routine, such as travel, hot weather, or stressful situations, may affect his general health and how his intestines work.
If constipation is not treated, it may get worse. The longer the stool remains in the lower intestinal tract, the more voluminous, firm, and dry it will be. Then passing stools becomes more difficult and painful. Your child may be prevented from stooling due to pain. This creates a vicious circle.
Medical treatment for constipation in children
If home remedies do not improve constipation, the paediatrician may administer a gentle enema to clear the affected stool. Before treatment, the paediatrician will perform a physical examination and examine your child’s anus for impacted stool. They may ask questions about your child’s diet and physical activity to help diagnose constipation.
Medical tests are not usually necessary. In cases of severe or long-term constipation, the paediatrician may order tests to check for problems with your child’s abdomen or rectum.
These include tests:
- An x-ray of the abdomen
- Barium enema X-ray (which takes pictures of the rectum, colon, and parts of the small intestine)
- Movement test (places a catheter in the rectum to check muscle movement)
- Transit Study (analyzes how fast food moves through the digestive system)
- Rectal biopsy (it removes a piece of tissue and examines nerve cells in the lining of the rectum)
Risk factors for constipation in children
Constipation in children is more likely to affect children:
- Are stable
- You don’t eat enough fibre
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Take certain medications, including some antidepressants
- You have a medical condition that affects the anus or rectum
- You have a nervous disorder
Complications of constipation in children
Although constipation in babies can be uncomfortable, it is not usually dangerous. However, if constipation becomes chronic, complications may include:
- Painful cracks in the skin around the anus (anal fissures)
- Rectal prolapse, when the rectum comes out of the anus
- Blocking faeces
- Avoidance of bowel movements due to pain, which leads to stool impacted in the colon and rectum collecting and leaking (apoptosis)
How to prevent constipation in children?
Here are some tips to help prevent constipation in infants, toddlers, and children:
- Do not give him solid foods until your baby is at least 6 months old.
- Aim for more high-fibre foods, such as beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Increase the amount of water your baby is getting to at least 1 litre (32 ounces) per day.
- Encourage physical activity, such as riding a bike, kicking a ball, or walking the dog.
- Teach your child not to ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.
- Help your child develop a bathroom pattern after meals. Have them sit on the toilet for 10 minutes after eating so that bowel movements become a regular part of their routine.