5 Easy ways to prevent constipation in children

Constipation in children is a very common disease in children. Children with constipation pass hard stool with 2-3 days of gap. It is very difficult for them to pass stool and it is painful for them and it also upsets the parents. Let’s get rid of all the doubts about constipation.

What is constipation in children ?

Constipation in young children means that the child passes very hard stool with gap of 2-3 days.

What are the symptoms of constipation in children?

The following symptoms appear in constipated children.

  •     If children are doing poo three times a week or less.
  •     If the child is having a dry, hard poo and it may cause pain while doing so.
  •     There may be pain in the abdomen before doing poo.
  •     The baby’s pants will show signs of dry poo.
  •     There may be bleeding while doing poo.

They are afraid to poo because the baby is in pain. So they hold back and when the baby makes body stiff, it pulls both legs together and makes the face go crazy. If such symptoms appear in the baby, then the baby should be considered as in constipation.

What causes constipation in children?

The main cause of constipation is that the poo moves very slowly through the large intestine and more water is absorbed in the large intestine. So it gets even drier as it moves forward.

There are many causes of constipation. But constipation can occur in young children mainly due to the following reasons :

constipation in children

Withhold the poo

Even if the baby want to poo, baby tries to withhold because baby is feared that it will cause discomfort while passing stool and baby may not want to stop playing.

Some children do not like to poo in the toilet outside the house, so they try to withhold the poo.

Sometime baby may have injury at the site of anal opening due to the passage of the hard stool through it so baby is always in fear of pain while passing poo, so baby stops to poo and this cycle (action) is repeated again and again.

Lack of proper diet in meals

Low fiber intake in diet of young children means that they have low consumption of greens vegetables in their diet or fruits. It can lead to  constipation.

This problem most likely to happen when we start giving the baby solid foods instead of liquids.

Toilet training is not done properly

Parents often give toilet training to the baby but if they shout at the baby while giving it, the baby gets scared and withhold poo unnecessarily.

The normal time for toilet training is 18 months to 24 months.

However, since every baby is different, some babies are trained early. Some takes time to train. So if the parents explain to the child in simple language, they can be trained quickly as they always try to learn new things.

Excessive intake of dairy products

Excessive intake of cow’s or buffalo’s milk in babies can sometimes lead to constipation.

Changes in children’s regularity

Climate change can cause constipation in young children. Fear can often lead to constipation when children start going to school.

If someone in the family, i.e. the parents, suffers from constipation, then the child may also suffer from the condition due to heredity.

If there are other disease ailments

Sometimes the child has a deformity at the anal opening or intestinal disease, hypothyroidism also causes constipation.

How is constipation diagnosed in children?

The doctor diagnoses the child with constipation based on the child’s symptoms and previous history and examination of the baby. Also the following types of tests can be done to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Digital Rectal Examination – In this examination, the doctor examines the rectum by wearing gloves so that they can see if there is any deformity in the area or if poo is stuck in the anus due to which it becomes difficult to pass poo.
  • Abdominal X-ray – An X-ray of the abdomen shows how much poo has accumulated in the intestines.
  • Barium enema – This test is done to identify obstruction in the intestines. A dye called barium is released into the baby’s gut and an X-ray of the baby’s abdomen is taken. Because barium is a radiographic contrast agent, dye from a baby’s intestines can be seen on X-rays.
  • Rectal biopsy – This examination involves taking a small piece of sample from the large intestine and examining it. This can be done if the doctor suspects that the baby has Hirschprung disease at some point.
  • Sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy – this test helps to identify Where is the baby’s large intestine swollen? This examination also reveals whether a lump has formed in the intestines or from which area the bleeding is occurring. Colonoscopy is done by passing scope through the baby’s anus.
  • Blood tests – Blood tests are necessary to identify a thyroid or some metabolic problem, urine test to identify a urinary tract infection.

What is the treatment for constipation in children?

Parents should always try to prevent constipation in children. Therefore constipation will reduce the discomfort of the child. The following measures can be taken to reduce the discomfort of constipation.

Drink plenty of water

Drinking plenty of water helps the baby’s intestines to move poo without any resistance. Drinking fruit juices for babies under one year of age also helps reduce the risk of constipation.

It is essential for young children to drink about four to five glasses of water. As a result, their digestion process is also become smoother.

Use of fiber into the diet

Consumption of fiber-rich foods like fruits, green leafy vegetables, cabbage in meals reduces the risk of constipation. These fiber-rich foods help to soften poo.

Flour foods such as biscuits, bread, noodles, junk food can increase the risk of constipation. Because flour is hard to digest, drinking plenty of water throughout the day with a meal with fiber helps to reduce constipation.

There should be a special regular meal program

Meal times should be fixed as it helps in smoothing the digestive process. Therefore, it is important to schedule this meal program according to the child’s school time.

Do regular toilet training

After waking up every morning, send the child to the toilet to have poo and tell him/her to come out only after his stomach is completely empty and he should not rush to do so.

Let him/her sit in the toilet for as long as it takes. This habit needs to be followed on a daily basis and while doing this you should tell him/her to sit down (squatting position).

If your child has done it well, then give him/her his favorite prize once a week. Doing so it will also reduce the child’s discomfort and he will also get in the habit of toilet training.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise improves the baby’s digestion. So let your baby play a lot of outdoor games.

If all of the above measures do not reduce the child’s discomfort or if the child is suffering from excessive discomfort, consult your pediatrician. He can give the baby some laxatives once they know the whole information, but in such cases it is very important to keep follow-up as prescribed by the doctor.

What problems constipation in children can cause?

Constipation causes the following problems in the baby. So for following problems when you are to be worried for constipation in children :

  •     Loss of appetite or low appetite.
  •     Feeling of full abdomen all the time.
  •     Bleeding during or after poo.
  •     Adherence of poo to the baby’s underwear.
  •     Recurrent urinary tract infections.

The main reason for frequent urinary tract infections is that the baby is also afraid to urinate as it is difficult to urinate due to pressure from poo impacted in large intestine. This can cause urinary tract infections.

By understanding all of the above, you can reduce the risk of constipation in children. All that is needed is willpower

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Dr Nikhil Rane is Consultant pediatrician and neonatologist. He likes to provide proper care for children health. He is blogger since last 7 years