Information on Constipation in Children -

By: james sameul

Constipation occurs commonly in children, affecting up to 10% at any given time. Still, only 3% of parents actually seek advice from the doctor for this condition. Constipation describes the infrequent passage of stools (bowel movements) or the passage of hard stools. Any definition of constipation depends upon comparison to how often the child normally passes stools and to the normal consistency of his or her stools. Many children normally pass stools as far apart as every few days. Regardless, you should treat hard stools that are difficult to pass and those that happen only every three days as constipation.

Changes in diet, or a different diet affect bowel habits. In adults, high-fiber diets have been shown to improve bowel function. In children, however, high-fiber diets have not been proven to improve constipation. Infants and children who eat well-balanced meals typically are not constipated.
Constipation is likely to happen when your child doesn't drink enough water, milk or fruit juices, or if your child doesn't eat a healthy diet that includes enough fiber. Fiber is found in foods such as cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables. If your child eats a diet high in fat and refined sugars (candy and desserts), he or she is probably not getting fiber, which may result in constipation.

Child strongly resists toilet training, wait a few weeks - or months - and then try again. If your child resists having bowel movements, try an over-the-counter stool softener in addition to high-fiber foods and plenty of water. It might help to stick to regular mealtimes and take scheduled bathroom breaks as well. Reward your child's efforts to use the toilet, even if he or she doesn't have a bowel movement.

If the accumulation of fecal material becomes so large and hard that it gets stuck, your child's doctor may suggest an enema or laxative to help remove the blockage. Keep in mind that long-term use of laxatives can prevent children from learning how to have regular bowel movements, so follow the doctor's instructions carefully.

Stool soiling, also called encopresis, happens when children who are already toilet trained accidentally leak feces into their underwear. Stool soiling most often occurs because of constipation and affects about 2 percent of children. Most often, the amount of soiling is small and just stains the underwear. In almost all cases, stool soiling is involuntary-- your child does not mean to soil his or her pants. Soiling can just occur sometimes. If it occurs often-- every day or many times a day-- the problem may need to be treated.

Laxatives are usually prescribed if a child develops chronic constipation. The first aim is to clear any impacted (stuck) stool. This can usually be done fairly quickly with a good dose of a strong laxative. Sometimes a suppository or enema is needed to clear a large impacted stool. After the impacted stool has been cleared, it is important to continue with 'maintenance' laxatives as prescribed by your doctor. This can be for several months, even for up to two years.

Treatment depends on the child's age and the severity of the problem. Often eating more fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereal), drinking more liquids, and getting more exercise will solve the problem. Sometimes a child may need an enema to remove the stool or a laxative to soften it or prevent a future episode. However, laxatives can be dangerous to children and should be given only with a doctor's approval.

Bowel Problems
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