What is Constipation?
Constipation is a problem with infrequent or painful bowel movements (BMs).
• Need to strain and push to get out a BM. Pain or difficulty having a BM is the most important sign of constipation.
• Have infrequent BMs. Most children are uncomfortable if they go more than one or two days without a bowel movement. Your child may also be constipated if he has a BM less frequently than he usually does.
• May have huge BMs or may have small, hard, dry BMs.
What Causes Constipation?
What we eat and do not eat can cause constipation. Bananas, refined grains (white rice, white bread, pasta), fatty foods, and too much milk and cheese can all cause constipation. Too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may be the source of the problem.
Some medications can cause constipation such as antacids, diuretics, seizure medicines, antihistamines, or iron supplements. Ask your nurse or doctor if they might be part of the problem.
Children who have low muscle tone and children who have high muscle tone are more likely to have trouble pushing out BMs.
Children who have had painful BMs or do not like to use public bathrooms may hold onto their BMs, and this can cause constipation.
Occasionally, constipation is a sign of an illness. Talk with your Health Care Provider to see if this is the cause.
What is the Treatment?
If your child has occasional constipation, start with diet changes. Offer plenty of fresh fruits (except bananas) and vegetables, dried fruit (not fruit snacks), plus whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, and beans. Cut back on dairy and fatty food. Try prune juice.
Medications may soften the BM or give your child the urge to push it out. Enemas may flush out stool but may cause the child to withhold more.
When Should I Call My Nurse or Doctor?
• Constipation is not helped by dietary changes
• Medication is needed for more than a week or is needed repeatedly
• There is blood in the BM
• Your child also has abdominal pain or rectal pain.