Ask Family Doctors: Constipation

Ask Family Doctors: Constipation

Ask Family Doctors: Constipation

Nobody likes to get sick. Whether it’s a little cold, a headache, fever, or the full-on stomach flu, feeling under the weather is no fun at all. However, this discomfort is, if possible, even less fun for children. It may sound strange, but the truth is that children simply don’t have as much experience with being sick. They don’t know what’s serious and what’s not, they don’t know one illness from another, and, most importantly, they have a low tolerance for discomfort (and anything that keeps them from laughing and playing). Illness in babies, toddlers, and younger children can be difficult to identify and difficult to deal with–especially when it comes to something as uncomfortable and often embarrassing as constipation.

Constipation in Kids

Constipation in kids is a bit of a unique battle. In babies and toddlers, it can be difficult to identify–and in this case, you’re likely to wonder if you’re overreacting (even though you probably aren’t), and this can make things confusing. However, while handling constipation in babies and toddlers is difficult because we’re too involved, handling constipation in older kids is difficult for an entirely different reason: we’re not involved as much–at least not in the same way. Once kids are potty-trained and wiping themselves, it’s no longer part of the normal routine to see if “things” are going smoothly, from regularity to appearance of the stool. So, where does that leave us? What can parents do to identify constipation in babies, toddlers, and kids, and how can we make the children more comfortable?

Advice from Family Doctors

Our opens in a new windowfamily doctors know a thing or two about taking care of kids with constipation. Here are a few quick tips!

  • Infants. In infants, constipation takes a slightly different form than in older kids. Stool will appear hard and tightly-packed, and won’t appear as often as normal (usually, there will be a day or more between stools). A little bit of blood is common, too. A quick solution is to change baby’s diet; feeding 1-2 ounces of pear or prune juice, or, for children over six months, high-fiber foods will help reduce discomfort.
  • Toddlers. For toddlers, constipation is a little more common, simply because toddlers are facing a lot of changes–new diets (complete with foods they probably don’t want to eat), new surroundings (preschool, anyone?), and new challenges (like potty-training). Constipation could be a diet-related issue or a potty-training issue, caused by discomfort or unease with the toilet; either way, the stool will be hard, painful, or dry, and will appear at three-day intervals. Finding ways to increase high-fiber foods in the diet will likely help.
  • Kids over four years. Older kids have different symptoms, and, of course, these symptoms are harder to catch. If you notice your child “holding it in,” suffering fecal incontinence, blocking the toilet with a stool, or having hard/uncomfortable stools, constipation may be an issue. In this case, you can use over-the-counter medications, but it’s best to contact your family doctor first.
  • Solutions. What is the best thing to do in any of these situations? Call the doctor. It’s okay to feel like you’re overreacting; better safe than sorry. Don’t worry. Family doctors understand how it feels to be a worried parent trying to make a child more comfortable, and they’ll do everything they can to help you find the right solution and the right information.

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