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When Your Child Has Constipation

Constipation is a common problem in children. Your child has constipation if he or she has stools that are hard and dry, which often leads to straining or difficulty passing stool.

What causes constipation?

Constipation can be caused by:

  • Too little fiber in the diet

  • Too little liquid in the diet

  • Not enough exercise

  • Painful past bowel movements (leading to “holding” of stool)

  • Stress and anxiety issues (such as changes in routine or problems at home or school)

  • Certain medications

  • Physical problems (such as abnormalities of the colon or rectum)

  • Recent illness or surgery (because of dehydration and medications)

What are common symptoms of constipation?

  • Feeling the urge to pass stool, but not being able to

  • Cramping

  • Bloating and gas

  • Decreased appetite

  • Stool leakage

  • Nausea

How is constipation diagnosed?

The doctor examines your child. You’ll be asked about your child’s symptoms, diet, health, and daily routine. The doctor may also order some tests or x-rays to rule out other problems.

How is constipation treated?

The doctor can talk to you about treatment options. Your child may need to:Woman sitting at table with girl. Girl is stirring powder into glass of orange juice.

  • Eat more fiber and drink more liquids. Fiber is found in most whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It adds bulk and absorbs water to soften stool. This helps stool pass through the colon more easily. Drinking water and fruit juices can also help soften stool.

  • Get more exercise. Exercise can help the colon work better and ease constipation.

  • Take stool softeners. The doctor may suggest stool softeners for your child. Your child should take them until bowel movements become more regular and the diet is adjusted.

  • Do bowel retraining. The doctor may tell you to have your child sit on the toilet for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, several times a day. The best time to do this is after a meal. This helps the child relearn the feeling of needing to have a bowel movement.

 Call the doctor if your child:

  • Is vomiting repeatedly or has green or bloody vomit

  • Remains constipated for more than 2 weeks

  • Has blood mixed in the stool or has very dark or tarry stools

  • Repeatedly soils his or her underpants

  • Cries or complains about belly pain not relieved with the passage of gas

 

 

 

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