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Constipation is a common problem in children. Your child has constipation if he or she has stools that are hard and dry, which often leads to straining or difficulty passing stool.
Constipation can be caused by:
Too little fiber in the diet
Too little liquid in the diet
Not enough exercise
Painful past bowel movements (leading to “holding” of stool)
Stress and anxiety issues (such as changes in routine or problems at home or school)
Physical problems (such as abnormalities of the colon or rectum)
Recent illness or surgery (because of dehydration and medications)
Feeling the urge to pass stool, but not being able to
Bloating and gas
The doctor examines your child. You’ll be asked about your child’s symptoms, diet, health, and daily routine. The doctor may also order some tests or x-rays to rule out other problems.
The doctor can talk to you about treatment options. Your child may need to:
Eat more fiber and drink more liquids. Fiber is found in most whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It adds bulk and absorbs water to soften stool. This helps stool pass through the colon more easily. Drinking water and fruit juices can also help soften stool.
Get more exercise. Exercise can help the colon work better and ease constipation.
Take stool softeners. The doctor may suggest stool softeners for your child. Your child should take them until bowel movements become more regular and the diet is adjusted.
Do bowel retraining. The doctor may tell you to have your child sit on the toilet for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, several times a day. The best time to do this is after a meal. This helps the child relearn the feeling of needing to have a bowel movement.
Is vomiting repeatedly or has green or bloody vomit
Remains constipated for more than 2 weeks
Has blood mixed in the stool or has very dark or tarry stools
Repeatedly soils his or her underpants
Cries or complains about belly pain not relieved with the passage of gas