Constipation in children and infants is a condition characterized by less than two bowel movements in a week or bowel movements with hard, small, and dry stool making it difficult for the child to pass stool. Constipation in infants and children is very common. Approximately 5% of visits to pediatricians are for constipation reasons. Almost 25% of the children and infants who visit gastroenterologists are constipated.
Causes of constipation
Constipation is as a result of prolonged stay of the stool in the child’s colon. Common causes of constipation include the following:
1. Withholding the urge to have a bowel movement
The child ignores the compulsion to have a bowel movement because he/she does not want to break from playing, is scared of the toilet, unpleasant or painful bowel movements due to hard and large poop, or the child is uncomfortable to use public toilets.
2. Early toilet training
When toilet training starts too early, the child may rebel and tend to hold stool.
3. Modifications in the diet
This is common when the child is switching from liquid diets to solid diets. Diets in low fiber also results to constipation.
Some medications prescribed to a child may lead to constipation. These medicines include:
5. Functional Gastro-Intestinal (GI) disorders
This happens when something changes the working of a child’s Gastro-Intestinal tract making the muscle in the child’s anus or colon move slowly.
6. Health Issues
Some health conditions make the stool move slowly in a child’s colon, or anus. The health disorders include; Hirsch sprung disease, obstructions in the loser Gastro-Intestinal tract, or tumors in the GI tract.
Dietary home treatments for constipation
It is advisable to try home remedies for the first 24 hours after noting the symptoms before seeking professional assistance. Home remedies include:
• Fruit juice.
• Dark corn syrup.
• Feeding the child with high-fiber foods.
• Considering formulas with iron.
When a child starts constipating immediately after you have started toilet training, stop the training temporarily and wait for a few more months.
If the symptoms persist, medical attention is necessary. Treatment includes dietary changes, behavioral adjustments, and medication.
The changes include eating more vegetables and fruits daily, eating more foods rich in fiber, and drinking more liquids.
This includes changing the child’s behavior and patterns for having bowel movements. It may be through encouraging the child to use the toilet after every meal, or even using a reward system when the child uses the toilet regularly.
Most doctors prescribe an enema or laxatives.
Constipation in children is mild and takes a shorter time. However, it may lead to complications like rectal prolapse, fecal impaction, and anal fissures if not treated immediately.