As a pediatrician, one of the most common complaints I hear from parents is about their child’s constipation. Constipation is a condition where a child has infrequent bowel movements, and the stool is hard and difficult to pass. It can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience for both the child and the parent, but fortunately, there are ways to manage and prevent constipation.

Causes of Constipation in Children

There can be many causes of constipation in children. Some of the most common causes include a diet that lacks fiber or fluids, changes in routine or environment, certain medications, medical conditions like hypothyroidism or Hirschsprung’s disease, or holding in bowel movements. In some cases, constipation may also be caused by psychological factors such as anxiety or stress.

Symptoms of Constipation in Children

The symptoms of constipation in children may vary depending on the age of the child. Infants who are constipated may have hard, pellet-like stools or may strain during bowel movements. Toddlers may refuse to go to the bathroom, and preschoolers may experience stomach pain and bloating. Older children may have fewer than three bowel movements per week or may feel like they can’t completely empty their bowels.

Preventing and Managing Constipation in Children

Preventing and managing constipation in children often involves making lifestyle changes. Encouraging children to eat a diet that is rich in fiber and fluids can help prevent constipation. This includes foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of water. It is also important to encourage children to go to the bathroom when they feel the urge to do so and not hold in bowel movements.

For children who are already constipated, there are several treatments that can help. These may include increasing fiber and fluids in the diet, using stool softeners or laxatives, or making changes to the child’s routine to encourage regular bowel movements. In some cases, additional medical treatment may be necessary.

When to See a Doctor

If your child experiences constipation that lasts for more than a week, has blood in their stool, or experiences severe abdominal pain, it is important to see a doctor. These could be signs of a more serious underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed.