Understanding and Managing Constipation in Children:

What is Constipation?

Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements or difficulty in passing stool. In children, it is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. However, it’s important to note that the frequency of bowel movements may vary from child to child, and what is considered normal can differ based on age and diet.

Causes of Constipation in Children:

Several factors can contribute to constipation in children. These include:

  • Diet: Insufficient fibre intake, inadequate fluid consumption, and excessive consumption of processed foods can contribute to constipation.
  • Lack of physical activity: Inactive lifestyles in children can affect bowel motility.
  • The most common cause of constipation in children is the fear of using the toilet which can lead to withholding of stool.

Signs and Symptoms:

Recognizing the signs of constipation is crucial for timely intervention. Common symptoms include:

  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Hard or dry stools
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite

Managing Constipation in Children:

The following strategies can help manage and prevent constipation:

  • Diet and Fluids: Encourage a high-fibre diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Ensure adequate fluid intake, primarily water.
  • Regular Toilet Habits: Establish a regular toilet routine, encouraging your child to use the toilet at the same time each day.
  • Physical Activity: Promote an active lifestyle through regular exercise and physical play.
  • Positive Bathroom Environment: Create a comfortable and supportive bathroom environment to alleviate any fear or anxiety.
  • Encourage Regular Bathroom Breaks: Encourage your child to visit the bathroom after meals or when they feel the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Avoid Withholding: Teach your child not to hold back bowel movements when they feel the urge to go.
  • Medications: In some cases, your paediatrician may recommend laxatives or stool softeners for short-term use. However, these should only be used under medical supervision.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

While most cases of constipation can be managed at home, there are instances when medical attention is necessary. Contact your paediatrician if your child experiences:

  • Severe abdominal pain or distention
  • Blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent constipation despite lifestyle changes
  • Changes in bowel habits accompanied by other concerning symptoms

It is essential to consult a paediatrician if there are persistent or concerning symptoms. With proper care and guidance, most cases of constipation in children can be effectively addressed.