Constipation can affect children of all ages. It usually refers to passing hard poop (stools, feces, or motions). It is worth mentioning that regular soiling usually indicates that a child has bad constipation with a degree of impaction (a blockage of stools). It could happen due to idiopathic constipation in which there is no underlying illness or disease present. It can, however, become a chronic problem, so it is important to recognize it early and find a way to treat constipation in childrenand babies.
Symptoms of Constipation in Children
Have you ever been in a situation when your child complained about the pain he felt while pooping? Wake up! It could be constipation. Still, it is a good idea to look for certain symptoms to ensure that what your child's experiencing is constipation. Here are certain typical signs of constipation:
- Less than three bowel movements in a week
- Bowel movements that may be dry, hard, and difficult to pass
- Pain while passing stool
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Traces of clay-like stool in underwear
- Blood in the stool
The child will try to avoid a bowel movement if it hurts. If they are trying to avoid it, you will often see them clenching their buttocks, crossing their legs and making faces. Look for these signs and make a move accordingly.
When to See a Doctor
Child constipation isn't that serious most of the times, but chronic constipation can create certain issues or indicate some underlying conditions. You should see your doctor if the condition persists for two weeks or so and is accompanied by vomiting, fever, abdominal swelling, anal fissures, weight loss, and intestinal protrusion out of the anus.
What Might Be the Causes of Constipation in Children?
Here are some of the common causes of constipation in children:
- One of the causes of constipation in childrenis low fiber intake. The combination of water and fiber helps bowels move properly. It means you may have to see your kids dealing with constipation if they eat lots of cheeses, bagels, white bread, meats, and processed foods.
- If you're giving your kids medicines to treat iron deficiencies, this may lead to constipation.
- You may notice constipation in babies when you switch from breast milk to baby formula. It may also happen when you move from baby food to solid food.
- Some kids simply suppress the urge to go to the bathroom. They do it when they are playing a fun game or are away from home and don't want to use a restroom. Ignoring the urge may lead to issues and cause constipation later.
- Some kids get anxious easily. They may feel stressed about problems at home or starting at a new school. This emotional stress can cause constipation and several other conditions, like diarrhea. The constant stress may also lead to a condition called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in which a child may have diarrhea or constipation with stomach pain and gas.
How to Deal with Constipation in Children
Once you've confirmed that your child is dealing with constipation, you will first have to determine its cause. You can try a number of ways to fix this issue, and it becomes super simple when you know what's causing this problem in the first place. Here's what you can do about constipation in children:
1. Give Your Child More Fluids
It is important to give your kids plenty of water and other liquids to avoid dehydration. This will have a direct impact on how easily stools move through the intestines. Different kids will have different fluid needs. Some will require more, while others will require less to pass stools with ease. It usually depends on age and weight. Still, you should give school-age kids at least four glasses of water daily. If your baby has constipation, you may consider giving him/her a few ounces of prune juice regularly. If symptoms persist, call your doctor for assistance.
2. Make Sure Kids Stay Active
It is important to ensure that your kids are getting enough exercise every day. Physical activity will help keep the bowels working. Anything like riding bikes, playing catch, or shooting hoops will do the trick.
3. Plan a Regular Meal Schedule
You need to develop a regular meal plan for your kids to help develop consistent bowel habits. It is a good idea to schedule breakfast early to ensure your child has enough chance to visit the bathroom before he/she leaves for the school.
4. Help Them Develop the Habit of Going
It is important to take steps to ensure your kids don't suppress the urge to go to the bathroom. You may set a time and have your child sit on the toilet seat at the same time every day for no more than 10 minutes. It works better if you do it after every meal.
5. Design a High-Fiber Diet
You need to develop a high-fiber diet to make it easier for your child's body to form soft stool. If there are 1,000 calories in your child's diet, there should be at least 14grams of dietary fiber as well. Younger children should have 20g of dietary fibers for the same amount of calories. Adolescent girls should take 29g of dietary fiber, whereas it should be around 38g for young men. You can make a diet plan using foods, such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Just be sure to start slowly with fewer fibers added each day.
Note: Sometimes, the buildup of fecal material may create a blockage. In this case, your child's doctor may make use of laxative or even suggest enema to fix the issue. Some laxatives include mineral oil and polyethylene glycol. Avoid giving your child enema or any laxative without your doctor's advice.