Constipation in children

One of the most common reasons kids go to the doctor is because they can’t go to the bathroom. Both trouble going to the bathroom and not going very often may be signs of a problem (less than once every 2-3 days). Constipation in children is mostly treated by giving them a diet high in fiber and fluids, teaching them about bowel movements, and getting them to move around more.

Constipation in a child means difficulty passing stools at intervals of more than 3 days. Dry stools, an urge to spit, alternating diarrhea and constipation, and abdominal pain may also accompany it. Not all problems with a bowel movement in a child are constipation, such as hard and dry stools with a clear effort or even pain. If a child has an effortless bowel movement every 2 days, it is still within the normal range.

Photo by Tuu1ea5n Kiu1ec7t Jr. on

It should be remembered that in the first months of life, an infant defecates with effort, i.e. it turns red, tenses up, and groans, and if the stool is correct (not dry, compact), then there is no reason to worry.

Causes of constipation in children

90% of constipation in children is functional, meaning it is not caused by an organic factor. In the initial period of life, constipation may result from immaturity and difficulty in dealing with food. Congenital stenosis of the rectum should be considered if there is a problem with pooping or rectal fusion. Surgery is necessary.

Possible causes of constipation in babies include:

  • nutritional errors,
  • irritable bowel syndrome,
  • lifestyle change (e.g. expanding the diet , starting kindergarten, and therefore new dishes, different times of eating, etc.),
  • stress ,
  • diseases of the anus causing discomfort during defecation (e.g. hyperplasia, intertrigo),
  • taking medications that cause constipation (e.g. iron preparations, alkaline agents, opiates, anticholinergics),
  • habitual constipation,
  • slow intestinal transit (as a result of the underlying disease, e.g. Hirschsprung’s disease ) causes too slow movement of fecal masses in the intestine, stool in the form of compact dry “babbles”),
  • down syndrome , 
  • rickets, 
  • hypothyroidism ,
  • vitamin D overdose ,
  • rebellion, opposition to the potty, unpleasant experiences with defecation.

Nutritional errors may be the cause of constipation in infants. The most important of them are:

  • diet rich in flour products (so-called gruel),
  • a diet low in fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains),
  • too little fluid intake ( dehydration ).

Habitual constipation in children

Habitual constipation is a common form of constipation in children, caused by irregular bowel movements and inhibition of passing stool. It is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, tight clothing, eating flour and low-fiber foods, increased tension, and constipation and painful passing of the stool. It does not result from any diseases or anatomical changes, but is associated with the weakening of intestinal peristalsis or excessive contraction of the muscles of the large intestine. This results in increased spasticity of the intestines and a problem with bowel movements.

Treatment of habitual constipation in children

The treatment of habitual constipation is based on introducing regularity, lifestyle changes, education, and resistance to pooping on the potty. Proper diet is also important, with large amounts of liquids and fiber.

Treating constipation in a child

When constipation affects infants under 1 year of age

The youngest children often tense and cry before defecation due to lack of coordination. To help, give them more drinks and fiber-rich foods, and limit white bread and fine grain porridges. This will help them adjust to digesting something other than milk.

When constipation affects children after 1 year of age

Dried fruits, such as raisins, figs and plums, should be given to children with constipation. Probiotics and lactulose syrup can also help. Movement and a light clockwise massage can also help.



4th Professional Medical Student. Karachi Medical and Dental College.

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