Constipation in children is an inevitable part of raising them. Unfortunately, it could be quite troubling for both the child and the caregiver. Constipated children can be identified by painful pooing and hard dry stool.
Most cases of constipation in children are temporary and a direct result of dietary problems. Constipation in children is fairly commonplace. Constipation occurs as a result of excess reabsorption of water from the colon. When food moves slowly through the digestive tract, more water will be reabsorbed from the stool.
The resulting hard faeces are very bulky and difficult to expel. This makes it especially difficult for the child to poop, and most toilet sessions end in tears, and not just the watery kind.
Signs of Constipation in Children
- Pooing less than 3times in a week or significantly reduced the number of poos per week/day.
- Passing hard, dry and lumpy stool
- Traces of blood in poop or diaper that could indicate anal tears.
- Constant pain and crying when pooping.
- Traces of liquid poop in underwear or diaper.
- Large poops that obstruct the toilet.
- Hard, bloated stomach, with cramps.
- Fidgeting and a fear of going to poop.
Causes of constipation in Children
When potty training is started too early or stresses out a child, they develop the habit of holding themselves from pooping. This voluntary action would eventually lead to a hard dry stool. They will develop involuntary constipation from this action.
A diet that’s poor in fiber and water will most likely lead to constipation. If a diet is rich in refined foods and starches with zero fibre, constipation is not far-fetched.
A marked lack of physical activity can result in slow digestion processes. The burning of energy by a heightened metabolism will inevitably lead to rapid digestion to provide more fuel.
Children who are of age to go use a potty or toilet might develop a habit of withholding poo for various reasons. It could be the unease of using an unfamiliar toilet facility or even as mundane as not wanting to stop playing. Fixations with television shows are also a big deterrent for young kids and even older ones from going to the toilet, and in the long run cause constipation.
Some families have a history of constipation. If there are a number of people suffering it in the family, the child is likely susceptible to being constipated. There might also be some underlying environmental factors to consider.
Certain drugs such as anti-depressants and some pain relievers cause constipation.
A change in environment or physical environment can also alter bowel movement. Traveling, temperature changes, new and unfamiliar faces or environment could all contribute to a rise in anxiety.
Change of diet
The period of change in a type of diet such as the introduction of solid food, baby formula or weaning can trigger constipation. The diet change will take some getting used to for the stomach.
Certain Dairy allergies could lead to constipation. If constipation occurs after consuming milk, cheese, cream or dairy-rich food, then they may be responsible.
In some very rare cases, constipation in children is due to anatomic discrepancies. Problems with the digestive tract and abdominal inconsistencies can, in uncommon situations, cause constipation. Neurological conditions, hypothyroidism, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cystic fibrosis are examples of such medical conditions. Tumours, scar tissue, diabetes, abnormal narrowing of the colon or rectum, (colorectal stricture), and Hirschsprung disease (absence of some nerve cells are in the large intestine), all cause susceptibility to constipation.
Remedies to Stop Constipation in Children
More often than not, constipation is a one-off condition that resolves itself within a short while. First aid for constipation in children is a fiber and fluid-rich meal.
- Foods rich in fiber.
Fruits and vegetables are a big part of this, juices with pulp are also great options. Although most kids are fussy eaters, try pureeing fruits and some veggies for them. Also, whole grain cereals and bread are better than refined flour meals. Fructose and sorbitol-rich fruit juices provide mild laxative properties.
- Have a toilet schedule.
This helps the child/ren develop regular toilet habits and reduces the probability of compacted stool. Allow the kids plenty of toilet time to reduce anxiety and stress over using the toilet. Giving a reward on pooing, to children who hold stools, might also help in getting rid of the habit.
- Keep calm and do not make potty training a nightmare.
As tiring as it is to get a child to potty successfully, punishments or anger are counter-productive.
Increased physical activity helps move the bowel along. Regular kiddies exercises like catch, even a bit of football or running around can do the trick.
These must be recommended by the doctor and must take the child’s statistics into consideration. Age, weight, diet and medical history are important when prescribing laxatives.
- Raised feet:
Elevating the knees above the position of the anus when passing faeces helps reduce constipation. It has been discovered that this position makes the rectal passage to the anus clearer.
Get Immediate Attention When…
Although constipation is a relatively transient situation, there are certain situations where immediate medical help should be sought.
- When a child is constipated for more than 2 weeks
- Constipation has limited normal functions of the child
- Liquid stool leaking out of the anus.
- Anal fissures; tears around the anus
- Rectal haemorrhoids: Swollen veins in the rectum or rectal area
- Has red, swollen veins (hemorrhoids) in the rectum
- Nausea, fever, vomiting and belly pains with constipation.
- Rectal prolapse: when the rectum comes out of the anus.
Before getting to these very uncomfortable stages, it is important to deal immediately with evidence of constipation. The long-term complications of holding stool in children and adults could result in some lifetime wahala no one wants to deal with.
Remember, prevention is better than cure. Always indulge in more fruits than sweets, and adequate fluids, preferably water. A healthy lifestyle will help in preventing constipation.