People avoid talking about constipation, but it’s a common problem in kids, especially those ages 2-4 who are potty training. Constipation can happen in summertime, as kids tend to play outside and get dehydrated, forgetting to drink and replace fluids.
Constipation can be caused by too little fiber or liquid in the diet, lack of exercise, and/or emotional issues. Some infants may also get constipated when switching from breast milk to formula.
Sometimes kids are too busy playing and forget to go to the bathroom, or ignore signals from their body telling them it’s time. Starting a new school year can also lead to constipation, since kids are put on a new schedule and may need to change their bowel routine.
Once a child becomes constipated, hard, dry stools can be painful to pass and he may avoid using the bathroom to avoid discomfort. A child who arches his back or crosses his legs to squeeze his buttocks together may be trying to avoid having a bowel movement. Repeated avoidance of bowel movements can lead to chronic constipation.
If your child experiences constipation, don’t panic — there are several home remedies that can help nip constipation in the bud.
If constipation isn’t resolved at home, it’s time to check in with your child’s primary care physician. Stubborn, chronic constipation may need additional treatment or medication. Some cases of constipation are caused by physical problems, such as abnormalities of the intestinal tract or endocrine problems. These can be detected with a diagnostic test such as an abdominal X-ray or lower GI series. Other cases of constipation may require behavioral interventions if a child is withholding bowels due to pain or stress, being embarrassed to use a public bathroom, or being overwhelmed with toilet training – all common emotional causes of constipation.
At Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, experts in our Constipation Program will diagnose the root cause of your child’s constipation and use a combination of education, behavior management and medical interventions to meet their unique needs. Our team includes gastroenterologists, experienced nurse practitioners, dietitians and psychologists who specialize in treating chronic constipation.
Finding the right solution for a child’s constipation helps the child and everyone in the family breathe easier and feel better. The good news is most constipation is a temporary situation, and up to 90 percent of kids will have no long-term problems.