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Constipation in Children (cont.)

Are There Natural or Home Remedies to Relieve My Baby or Child's Constipation?

  • Give plenty of water to the affected child.
  • Try 2 to 4 ounces of half-strength pear or apple juice (diluted with water). Alternatively, add one-half ounce of table syrup to 3 ounces of warm water, then administer by mouth to soften the stool.
  • Add two tablespoons of baking soda to a warm bath. Let your child relax for 5-15 minutes, soaking in the warm bath.
  • Applying a warm, moist cloth to the anus can sometimes stimulate a bowel movement.
  • To stimulate a bowel movement, a plastic swab tipped with cotton (Q-tip) with a small amount of Vaseline ointment can be gently inserted through the anus (not too far, just the cotton tip) and promptly removed. Your health care practitioner may prescribe a glycerin suppository for the same purpose but with greatest effect.

Chronic Constipation in Infants and Children Medical Treatment

Chronic constipation in infants and babies usually is medically treated by educating parents or caregivers about the cause of the constipation. It is important for the doctor and other health care professionals to reassure parents that it is neither their's, nor the child's fault, and that nothing is psychologically wrong. If the baby or child has fecal soiling (an elimination disorder in children); negative attitudes about the condition need to be removed.

After parental or caregiver education about the infant or child's cause of the problem medical treatment can begin. If a child has a large amount of hard stool present in the colon the stool needs to be removed (disimpaction). This is done either using oral or rectal medications, or a combination of both. The type of medication used also depends on the child's age and exact problem.

After the stool is removed, preventing re-accumulation of hard stools is the key to maintaining good bowel habits. This usually has to be done with long-term medication.

How Can I Prevent the Constipation from Becoming a Serious Problem?

A few important steps at home can keep constipation from becoming a continuous problem:

  • Positive reinforcement is the first step in giving children the desire to begin regulation of their bowels. It is important to remove any negative thoughts about being constipated, especially if fecal soiling is present.
  • Bowel retraining is the next step. The body has a natural reflex called the gastrocolonic reflex. After a meal, the colon undergoes peristalsis and attempts to clear the bowels. Have your child take advantage of the gastrocolonic reflex after each meal. Have him or her sit on the toilet for at least 10 minutes. It is often easier for the child if the feet are on the floor or on a footstool.
  • Give your child plenty of fluids and juices, such as prune or apple juice.
  • A well-balanced meal consisting of whole bran cereals, fruits, and vegetables (with less candy and dessert) also helps.

How Can I Prevent My Child from Getting Constipated?

To prevent constipation from returning, the child should make changes in behavior, diet, and fluid intake.

  • Long-term use of laxatives for several months or up to a year may be indicated.
  • Regular toilet habits have to be started after each meal to take advantage of the body's normal urge to empty the bowel.
  • Continued use of positive reinforcement with verbal or other rewards or both often contributes to long-term bowel success.

What's the Prognosis for Acute or Chronic Problems?

Acute constipation can be corrected easily. After the dehydration or illness improves, bowel function improves.

Chronic constipation, however, often requires long-term therapy with oral medication. Most children respond to therapy and are able to discontinue medications within a year. Relapses can be common, especially if the child or parents do not follow the health care practitioner's instructions, or medical intervention is not present. If therapy fails, the child may need to see a pediatric gastroenterologist, the doctor who specializes in the stomach and intestines.

REFERENCES:

Blackmer, AB, et al. "Constipation in the Pediatric Patient: An Overview and Pharmacologic Considerations." Medscape. J Pediatr Health Care. 2010;24(6):385-399.
<https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/731973_5>

Borowitz, SM, MD. "Pediatric Constipation Treatment & Management." Medscape. Updated: Sep 19, 2016.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/928185-treatment>


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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