Constipation in children

some of the questions frequently asked by parents ,who’s child is suffering from constipation.

HOW CAN I TELL IF MY CHILD IS CONSTIPATED?

When it comes to a child’s bowel movements, there’s no “normal” number or schedule – just what’s normal for your child. He may pass a stool after every meal, or wait one or two days or more between bowel movements. His individual pattern depends on what he eats and drinks, how active he is, and how quickly he digests his food and then gets rid of waste.

If you’re concerned that your child might be constipated, look for the following clues:
• Less frequent bowel movements, particularly if he hasn’t had one for four or more days and is obviously uncomfortable when he does have one.
• Dry, hard stools that are uncomfortable to pass.

• Very liquid stools or soiled underwear. Liquid stools can slip past the blockage in the lower intestine and end up in your child’s nappy or underwear. If you see this, don’t assume it’s diarrhoea – it may be evidence of constipation.

WHY IS MY CHILD GETTING CONSTIPATED?

Here are the likely possibilities:

Eating too many low-fibre foods. If your child eats lots of milk, cheese or yogurt, for instance, and not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, he could become constipated.

Toilet anxiety. If your child is feeling pressured about toilet training he might start deliberately holding in his stools. If he shows all the signs of straining to have a bowel movement – stiffening his body, arching his back, and getting red in the face – but nothing comes out, he may actually be trying to hold it in.

Even if your child is potty-trained, he may not be taking enough time on the toilet to completely empty his bowels. That can lead to a build-up of faeces that causes the colon to stretch and cramp. An enlarged colon can lead to hard, larger-than-normal, difficult-to-pass stools, making your child even more reluctant to use the potty.

Dehydration. If your child isn’t getting enough liquids, his system will respond by absorbing more fluid from whatever he eats or drinks – and from the waste in his bowels, as well. The result can be hard, dry bowel movements that are difficult to pass.

Lack of activity. Movement helps blood flow to your child’s digestive system, so if he’s not active, he may experience trouble in opening his bowels.

HOW CAN I TREAT MY CHILDS CONSTIPATION?

Here are some things to try:
• Don’t give your child too many foods that have a binding effect. These include bananas, cooked carrots or squash, and large quantities of dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

• Boost your child’s fibre intake. Give him plenty of wholemeal cereal, bread or crackers, and fruits and vegetables such as prunes, apricots, plums, peas, beans and broccoli.

• To help keep your child’s stools soft, increase the amount of fluid he drinks. Water is your best bet, but small amounts of prune or apple juice may also help. He’s probably drinking enough fluids if he wees at least once every five to six hours.

• Encourage him to walk, climb and run around every day, to get the blood flowing to all of his organs.

• Massage your child’s tummy. Measure three finger-widths below and to the left of his belly-button and apply gentle but firm pressure with your fingertips. Press until you feel a firmness or mass. Maintain gentle but constant pressure for about three minutes.

• Don’t pressure your child to toilet train before he’s ready. Pushing him to use the potty can make him afraid or resentful, and he could end up withholding bowel movements. If you notice your child doing this, put training on hold, and wait to try again until you’ve spotted the signs he’s really ready.

• Encourage your child to use the toilet as soon as he feels ready to do a poo. If he says he never feels ready, get him to spend five to 10 minutes on the toilet after breakfast and dinner. (A child who’s been constipated for a long time may have lost the ability to perceive that his rectum is full.) If your child goes to preschool, check to see if he’s using the toilet there regularly. Some children are reluctant to use potties or toilets away from home.

• If your child is “holding on”, a reward chart for when he passes a stool may be useful.

• If none of these methods work for your child, your doctor may prescribe an oral laxative.

If your child is passing such hard, dry stools that he tears the delicate skin near the opening of his anus (you may be able to see these tears, known as anal fissures, or a little blood), you can apply some aloe vera lotion to the area to help it heal. Make sure you mention the tears to his doctor.

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