Signs and treatment for constipation in children

  • Jan 27 , 2017

Constipation is a typical issue in children. A child is considered constipated when he or she has fewer than three bowel movements in a week, experiences difficulty having bowel movements or when the stool (poop) is hard, dry and abnormally large.

Children with constipation are treated differently than adults because patterns of bowel movements change from the time they are born until they reach the age of 3 or 4 years. The majority of children suffering from constipation do not have a medical disease or disorder causing constipation. It is important that constipation is recognised early to prevent it from becoming a chronic problem.

Constipation symptoms

Besides the obvious painful bowel movements, look for these typical signs:

  • Bleeding with bowel movements
  • Stomach pain and bloating
  • Soiling accidents
  • Decreased appetite, nausea or vomiting

Sometimes a constipated child might really seem to have diarrhea, which can confuse. What's going on here is that a largely shaped stool has stuck in your child's rectum, and somewhat fluid stool gets passed around it.

When a child is constipated, he has less frequent bowel movements, and when he does have a bowel movement, his stool is dry, hard, and painful to pass.

There are many other possible causes of constipation, including:

  • Changes in diet or a different diet affect bowel habits
  • Withholding stool
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • A number of medical disorders can cause chronic constipation
  • Alterations in blood mineral and electrolyte levels 
  • Diabetes
  • Cystic fibrosis causes constipation in children
  • Children with disorders of nervous system
  • Hypothyroidism

Constipation treatment

There are three primary treatments for most cases of constipation:

  • A stool softener to clear the bowels. These are safe in children, but it should be used under the supervision of your pediatrician because parents make mistakes while giving their child a stool softener by not using large enough dose or stopping it too soon.
  • A high fibre diet with plenty of fluids: this means loading your child diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fibre cereals, and a variety of beans and other legumes.
  • Regular toilet time: Encourage your child by telling to use the toilet first thing in the morning and after every meal or snack.
  • If dietary and lifestyle changes alone are unable to fully relieve constipation, laxatives and stimulant laxatives might help. But you shouldn’t take any medications without discussing with your doctor.