Constipation in Kids
Is your little one having trouble going to the bathroom? If children experience difficulty or pain while trying to pass a bowel movement, they may feel nervous about going and perpetuate the problem. To better understand your child’s condition and develop tools to calm their nerves, check out the causes, symptoms and tips found below.
Possible Causes of Constipation in Children:
- Diet – Like any constipation sufferer, a child who has trouble going may be able to attribute the condition to a low-fiber diet and insufficient fluid intake. For infants, the switch from breast milk to formula or to solid foods can lead to a digestive halt. A lack of physical activity can also cause constipation.
- Emotional Distress – When children reach school-age, it can be difficult for them to get used to the idea of going to the bathroom in a public restroom. Consequently, they may hold in their stool to avoid the embarrassment of going number two at school. In the earlier years, toddlers may face stress when learning to go on the toilet, leading to a shy bowel.
- Lack of Time – Most children love to run around and play. When the urge to go hits, they may not want to take a break from their activities to visit the bathroom. Additionally, when children transition from a home routine to a school routine, they may have to adjust their regular bathroom schedule. This can affect their normal bodily flow and lead to constipation.
- Physical Constraints – Certain medications prescribed for other conditions can cause constipation. Physical ailments such as endocrine issues, nervous system abnormalities and intestinal, rectal or anal complications are also linked to inability to go.
Possible Symptoms of Constipation in Children:
- Infrequent bowel movements (fewer than three bowel movements in a week)
- Stomach bloating, cramps, pain
- Loss of appetite
- Traces of liquid or soft stool in the child’s underwear
- Outward attempts to hold in stool: pressing teeth together, crossing legs, rosy face, etc.
Tips for Relief
- Add high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables to your child’s diet
- Get your children reusable water bottles to ensure they continuously drink fluids throughout the day
- Encourage your child to engage in physical activity each day
- Create a school bathroom routine to keep your child regular
- Normalize going to the bathroom in public spaces to ensure your child goes when the need arises
- Evaluate whether medications are causing constipation and ask your child’s doctor for alternatives
About Occasional Constipation
If you have questions about constipation, you’re not alone. Constipation affects an estimated 63 million people in North America, making constipation one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints.1
Some possible symptoms of constipation may include2-4:
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Irregular bowel movements
- Incomplete bowel movements
- Pain or straining during bowel movements
- Hard, dry stools
- Excessive bloating
If your need for a laxative lasts for more than one week, you should see your doctor to make sure it’s not a sign of a more serious condition.
- Higgins PD, Johanson JF. Epidemiology of constipation in North America: a systematic review. Am J Gastroenterol. 2004;99(4):750-9.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Definition & Facts for Constipation. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/definition. Accessed March 2021.
- American Gastroenterological Association. Constipation. Available at http://www.gastro.org/patient-care/conditions-diseases/constipation. Accessed March 2021.
- American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. Constipation. Available at https://www.fascrs.org/patients/disease-condition/constipation-0. Accessed March 2021.