Symptoms and Signs of Constipation in Children

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 1/19/2022

Doctor's Notes on Constipation in Children

Constipation in children means the infrequent passage of stools or the passage of hard stools in the pediatric population. Signs and symptoms of constipation in children, which is common, usually includes bowel movement frequency, stool consistency, and pain; in general, three bowel movements per week with the stools being hard and/or painful to pass indicate constipation. Other signs and symptoms include

Infants having hard stools may extend their legs and squeeze their anal and buttock muscles to prevent stool passage. Toddlers may stand up on their toes, rock back and forth, and hold the legs and buttocks stiffly.

Causes of constipation in children can be medications such as coal medications, antacids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, chemotherapy, and pain medication that includes narcotics. Medical disorders that can cause chronic constipation in children include hypothyroidism, a congenital condition like Hirschsprung's disease (lack of nerve cells), diabetes, abnormal electrolyte levels, lead poisoning, cystic fibrosis, spinal cord problems, and mental retardation.

The majority of children with constipation have it intermittently and do not have a medical disease or disorder.

What Are the Treatments for Constipation in Children?

Most children are treated at home for constipation; they are treated by doing the following:

  • Eat more fiber-containing foods.
    • Vegetables
    • Fruits
    • Nuts
    • Beans
    • Whole grains
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Decrease and/or avoid everyday consumption.
    • Chips
    • Fast food
    • Processed foods like hot dogs
    • Foods like frozen meals
    • Snack foods

In addition, the child may improve by setting a pattern of toilet use after meals and a reward system when the child uses the bathroom on a more regular sequence. Occasionally, your child's doctor may recommend a laxative or enema. Follow the directions for your child's age and weight dosage, and do not treat the child with any medications without consulting the pediatrician.

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REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.