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Constipation in Children: Understanding and Treating


What is constipation?


One of the most common symptoms of constipation is passing small amounts of hard and dry stool, which may be uncomfortable or infrequent. Constipation affects 25% of all paediatric gastroenterology visits and 5% of all paediatric general paediatric visits annually.

90% of children with constipation have "functional" constipation, which is constipation that has no underlying medical cause. Stool withholding becomes a learned behaviour for kids with unpleasant bowel movements. The rectum becomes progressively bloated when faeces is retained in the colon and rectum owing to water absorption. Consequently, fewer rectal feelings and bowel movements are overflowing, which may lead to underwear accidents. Parental misinterpretations of these faeces-producing events include diarrhoea.


What causes constipation in children?


A change in food or lifestyle may bring on constipation, but it can also result from a more serious underlying illness in severe or persistent instances. Constipation in children may be caused by a variety of factors, including:


  • Medications
  • A lack of physical activity
  • Due to a lack of water,
  • Dietary fibre deficiency
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • Not paying attention to the desire to defecate.
  • Habits or lifestyles that have been altered
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Constipation in children may be triggered by a variety of life events, including:
  • Switching to the formula from breast milk
  • Solid meals are now available.
  • Using cow's milk to begin
  • Toileting education
  • Going on a road trip or going camping
  • Virus-borne disease

Symptoms of Constipation


  • Even though each child's case of constipation is unique, the following symptoms are possible:
  • Only three or fewer bowel motions per week.
  • Every week there is at least one instance of stool leaking.
  • Withholding behaviour: 
  • A youngster deliberately attempts to avoid using the restroom. They will clench their buttocks, cross their legs, grow hot in the face, hide, weep, tremble, or dance about when they need to use the toilet. They will. Misunderstanding this action as a sign of discomfort is not uncommon.
  • Painful or difficult bowel motions.
  • "Ball-like" stool that is both tiny and lightweight
  • Having a bloated or swollen feeling
  • Stains on the toilet bowl that are too large in diameter
  • There is a vast stool mass located in the abdomen or rectum.
  • In children, constipation is the most prevalent underlying cause of stomach discomfort. In most cases, the pain subsides with a simple bowel movement.
  • It is common for bladder dysfunction to be caused by constipation, which takes up a lot of abdominal space. Also, roughly 10% of constipated children have recurring urinary tract infections, which may lead to day or night time urination. Take the time to learn more about bladder infections.
  • Anal tears (fissures) may occur during the passage of hard stools, resulting in blood-stained stools or blood on the toilet paper. •
  • There are many reasons a kid may develop behavioural disorders, such as the agony of constipation or the shame they feel when their underwear is soiled in public.


How is constipation diagnosed?


Diagnosing and treating a child's constipation involves performing the tests and treatments listed below:


Your child's doctor will inquire about the length and severity of their constipation and any changes in their weight, bowel habits, or appetite during that period.


An abdominal X-ray may be necessary for confident children with constipation so that the doctor may see the extent of the problem inside the patient's body.


Blood testing: Some children may get blood tests to search for evidence of infection or other underlying diseases.

Constipation in children may be relieved by various natural and home remedies.


Make sure the sick youngster gets lots of liquids. You may try 2 to 4 ounces of pear or apple juice at half strength (diluted with water). To soften the stool, take half an ounce of table syrup mixed with three ounces of warm water and bring it orally.


Then, sprinkle two teaspoons of baking soda in a warm bath. Allow your youngster to soak in a warm bath for 5 to 15 minutes before removing them from it.


One of the home remedies for constipation is a bowel movement that may be induced by placing a warm, wet cloth on the anus.


To get the bowels moving, gently put a cotton-tipped plastic swab (Q-tip) into the anus with a tiny quantity of Vaseline ointment and remove it immediately. 


What are some excellent sources of dietary fibre?


A child's diet may benefit from a wide range of fibre-rich foods, including:


  • Cereals fortified with dietary fibre.
  • Grain-based foodstuffs
  • Products made with whole wheat (such as whole wheat bread)
  • Granola bars or cereals high in fibre
  • Oats
  • Beans


In addition to fruits and vegetables, you should eat a lot of greens.


  • Fruit, particularly pears, apples, raisins, and figs.


Chronic Constipation in Children


Symptoms of chronic constipation persist for over three weeks, despite attempts to alleviate them.


Constipation Treatment 


Because persistent constipation puts children at risk for various health issues, they must get constipation remedies asap.


There are two types of haemorrhoids, both of which may be caused by straining to urinate:


  • Hard stool may cause rips in the skin surrounding the anus, known as anal fissures. Rectal bleeding may occur as a consequence of this. Find out more about haemorrhoids by reading this article.


  • Prolapse of the rectum, in which a little portion of the intestinal lining protrudes through the anal hole.


  • Immobilization of the colon due to faecal impaction occurs when hard stool clogs the digestive tract and prevents regular colonic movement from expelling the faeces.


  • Adult diverticulitis may be caused by long-term constipation.

When should my child see a gastroenterologist?


Your child's physician may usually treat constipation. Consult your child's doctor about a visit to a paediatric gastroenterologist if therapy fails to relieve the child's constipation. The pediatric gastroenterologist will obtain a suitable screening examination based on symptoms and more specific testing methods like motility tests for your child's condition.

Dr. Durga Prasad
Paediatric Care
Meet The Doctor
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