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Constipation

What is constipation?

Constipation is defined as:

What causes constipation?

Sometimes, there is no identifiable reason for constipation in children. However, some of the causes may include:

Physical problems that can cause constipation include the following:

Why is constipation a concern?

Hard stools can irritate or tear the lining of the anus (fissure), making it painful to have a bowel movement. The child may avoid having a bowel movement, which can cause further constipation.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

The following are the most common symptoms of constipation. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of constipation may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is constipation diagnosed?

A physician will examine your child and obtain a complete medical history. Depending on the age of your child, you might be asked questions such as:

Occasionally, your child's physician may want to perform other diagnostic tests to determine if there are any problems. These tests may include:

When should you contact a physician?

Do not hesitate to contact your child's physician if you have any questions or concerns about your child's bowel habits or patterns. The National Institutes of Health recommends that you talk to your child's physician if:

Treatment for constipation:

Specific treatment for constipation will be determined by your child's physician based on the following:

Treatment may include:

diet changes
Often, making changes in your child's diet will help constipation. Consider the following suggestions:

FOODS MODERATE FIBER HIGH FIBER
BREAD Whole wheat bread, granola bread, wheat bran muffins, Nutri-Grain® waffles, popcorn
CEREAL Bran Flakes®, Raisin Bran®, Shredded Wheat®, Frosted Mini Wheats®, oatmeal, Muslix®, granola, oat bran All-Bran®, Bran Buds®, Corn Bran®, Fiber One®, 100% Bran®
VEGETABLES Beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, corn, green beans, green peas, acorn and butternut squash, spinach, potato with skin, avocado
FRUITS Apples with peel, dates, papayas, mangos, nectarines, oranges, pears, kiwis, strawberries, applesauce, raspberries, blackberries, raisins Cooked prunes, dried figs
MEAT SUBSTITUTES Peanut butter, nuts Baked beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chili with beans, trail mix

Plan to serve your child's meals on a regular schedule. Often, eating a meal will stimulate a bowel movement within 30 minutes to an hour. Serve breakfast early so your child does not have to rush off to school and miss the opportunity to have a bowel movement.

increase exercise
Increasing the amount of exercise your child gets can also help with constipation. Exercise aids digestion by helping the normal movements the intestines make to push food forward as it is digested. People who do not move around much are often constipated. Encourage your child to go outside and play rather than watch TV or engage in other indoor activities.

proper bowel habits
Have your child sit on the toilet at least twice a day for at least 10 minutes, preferably shortly after a meal. Make this time pleasant; do not scold or criticize the child if they are unable to have a bowel movement. Giving stickers or other small rewards, and making posters that chart your child's progress can help motivate and encourage him/her.

If these methods do not help, or if your physician notices other problems, he/she may recommend laxatives, stool softeners, or an enema. These products should ONLY be used with the recommendation of your child's physician. DO NOT use them without consulting with your child's physician first.

What is the long-term outlook for a child with constipation?

The outlook depends on what type of condition caused the constipation. Those children with diseases of the intestine, such as Hirschsprung's disease, may have chronic problems. However, most of the time, constipation is a temporary situation. Up to 90 percent of children will have no long term, recurring problems.

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Online Resources of Digestive & Liver Disorders


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