Constipation in children is a common problem which can be difficult for both the children and parents. Learn what causes it and how can you treat the problem in your little ones.
How often should my child go to the toilet?
Normal bowel habits can vary from child to child. Some children move their bowels daily, every other day, or even twice or three times a day. The most important thing is to be sure that the child can defecate comfortably without pain or straining.
What is constipation?
Constipation refers to infrequent, painful, difficult passing of stools. Stools passed are usually bulky and dry, or small and pellet-like.
Other associated symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps or pain
- Passing stools with blood
- Severe cases can cause soiling, due to constipation overflow
Why do children get constipated?
Children can get constipated for a number of reasons; these can include:
Not enough grains, vegetables, and fluids
Too much dairy or starchy diet
Medications or Supplements
Certain medications and supplements can cause constipation, such as those which contain iron or zinc.
Change in Routine
A change in a child’s normal routine, such as starting school can be a cause as well. A child may be uncomfortable going to the toilet in school, while travelling, or a foreign environment and intentionally not go to the toilet.
Once the child does not move his/her bowels for too many days, the stool gets dry and become bulky, resulting in difficulty passing out the stool, and could even cause a tear at the anus (anal fissure). This tear can cause further pain and may result in further reluctance to pass motion again. This can become a vicious cycle and lead to chronic constipation.
How long does constipation last?
Constipation can last from a few weeks to a few months. I would recommend that parents bring the child to see a doctor soon if constipation persists for a few weeks.
What can I do to help a child with constipation?
Parents can encourage regular bowel habits in their children. If necessary, you may also need to treat any resulting pain from the tear.
Suggested diet for children with constipation
- Increased grains and greens
- Fruits such as dragon fruits, papaya, kiwi, all types of berries.
- Reduced milk and Carbohydrate-rich diet
If conservative treatment fails, the child may need to be treated with stool softener. You may speak to your paediatrician about this.
Dr Adeline Wong
SBCC Baby & Child Clinic (Bishan)