Childhood constipation is a common though undefined condition estimated to affect as many as 30% of children. Usually defined as infrequent or painful defecation, childhood constipation is sometimes caused by fears and behavioral issues rather than dietary concerns.
It’s a good idea to keep your pediatrician in the loop any time your child has trouble with waste elimination functions. The doctors at Katy Pediatric Associates in Katy, Texas can work with you to identify the conditions affecting your child and find a solution.
Signs your child may be constipated
Usually, it’s easy to notice changes in your child’s bathroom habits. When the frequency of bowel movements falls below three per week, you may start to suspect constipation. Other symptoms and signs include:
- Hard, dry bowel movements
- Painful bowel movements
- Blood present on bowel movement or toilet paper
- Complaints of abdominal pain
- Liquid or stool in your child’s underwear
- Your child resists going to the bathroom
Reasons for childhood constipation
Your child may resist going to the bathroom for a bowel movement for a variety of reasons. Sometimes children aren’t comfortable using public toilets, or they may feel pressure about toilet training. Your child can develop hard stools for dietary reasons, and then become worried about the difficulty of passing these because of the pain. They may even withhold bowel movements to keep from interrupting play.
Lack of dietary fiber can affect your child, too, and their digestive system may take time to adapt to new foods in their diet. Changes in routine may also result in constipation. It’s common for children to experience it, for example, when they first start school.
Sometimes, medical conditions may be the cause, but apart from allergies to cow’s milk, this happens infrequently. If you have a family history of constipation, your child could be affected as well.
3 treatment options for childhood constipation
Provided your child’s constipation has no complications like fever, weight loss, or abdominal swelling — all reasons for urgent medical attention — you can try each of these solutions when they apply. Your best strategy may include a combination of all three.
1. Fiber and water
Sometimes, the solution to childhood constipation is the same as for adults. Increasing the fresh fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet is a good start. Add whole grains and legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Popcorn and trail mix are two high fiber snacks that are kid-friendly. Encourage adequate water consumption while minimizing sugary drinks.
2. Behavioral routines
When your child’s constipation centers around worries, fears, or bathroom resistance, set regular toilet times. Despite the initial resistance that often occurs, established routines become a comfort for children, even though they may not be aware of it.
Stool softeners are usually safe for children, but you should follow your pediatrician’s advice. Depending on the severity of your child’s constipation, they may need to stay on the medication even after their stools start to return to normal.
When you need assistance with your child’s constipation, call our office directly at 281-492-7676, or use the online scheduler. The sooner you address the constipation issue, the sooner your child will feel better about the bathroom.