Constipation is a condition characterized by the formation of hard stool, and lesser or infrequent bowel movements. However, infrequent bowel movements in children is not a cause of concern as long as the stool is soft, and is not difficult to pass.
Constipation often resolves on its own without any medical intervention. But if it lasts more than a week or two, and the affected child experiences pain and difficulty in passing stool, then medical intervention may be required. This condition is known as chronic constipation.
One of the most common causes of constipation in both children and adults is the insufficient intake of water or fluid. Sometimes, it can also be caused by a change in the diet. For example, your child can become constipated if you suddenly substitute breast milk or baby formula with cow's milk. Many children can get constipated due to an allergy to cows' milk. A poor eating habit can be another factor that can cause this condition. Children who prefer to eat more fats and refined sugar, but do not consume enough fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, are more prone to develop this condition.
Many times, it has been observed that children tend to hold back the urge to defecate. This causes the buildup of large and hard feces in the rectum. There can be several reasons behind this behavior, including a previous experience of difficulty and pain in passing stool, early toilet training, or a dislike for public toilets. All these factors may induce a child to ignore the urge to defecate. Rarely, constipation in children and infants can be caused by diseases like hypothyroidism, bowel disorders, or metabolic and gastrointestinal problems.
Symptoms of Chronic Constipation
The most common symptoms of this condition are, hard stool, difficulty and pain while passing stool, and the absence of bowel movements for several days. It can also cause abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea. While passing hard stool, one can get anal fissures or cracks in the skin around the anus.
Sometimes, red coloration or blood spots can be observed on the surface of the hard stool. A small amount of liquid stool can also be found in the undergarments of the affected child, which is known as encopresis. Encopresis can be confused with diarrhea, but it is actually caused by the obstruction of stool in the rectum.
Treatment and Management
Constipation can be effectively managed by drinking plenty of water and making some dietary changes, like the inclusion of more cereals and foods high in fiber in the diet. But these measures may take time to ensure regular bowel movements. In the mean time, you may need to consult a physician to help your child get relief from this painful and uncomfortable condition.
Physicians usually prescribe mild laxatives to clear the blocked stool in the rectum. However, adequate precautions need to be taken while administering laxatives. Sometimes, an enema may also be required to clear the large and hard feces accumulated in the rectum. But laxative and enemas cannot be used continuously for a long time, as one can become dependent on these medications for having bowel movements.
Constipation can affect individuals in any age group, and in the long run, it can give rise to many complications like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, fecal impaction, and rectal prolapse. Therefore, it is important to change eating habits, along with drinking plenty of fluid, in order to prevent this condition. So, consider to include fruits and vegetables in your child's diet. Apart from this, help your child develop proper bowel habits, and educate him or her about the adverse effects of holding back the urge to defecate.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.