Childhood Constipation Not Always Obvious

May 19, 2020 | Children, Constipation, Infants & Toddlers

Childhood Constipation

With pain in the stomach, difficulty or pain when having a bowel movement, and several days passing between such movements, most people have no problem knowing when they have constipation. Most people will not tolerate the pain and discomfort of the condition for more than a day or two before they seek constipation relief. The majority of time, laxatives are the key to ending short term constipation. But where childhood constipation is concerned, just identifying the condition is not always so easy—let alone treating it.

Hidden Signs of Childhood Constipation

One of the biggest reasons why childhood constipation goes unnoticed by parents is because it may more resemble diarrhea. In general, constipation will involve dry, hard stools that are difficult and painful to pass. So if a stool is watery, parents will naturally think diarrhea instead of the real culprit: childhood constipation. But how can any constipation involve a wet stool?

Actually, childhood constipation is hidden in some cases by “overflow constipation”. It is not uncommon for children to avoid a bowel movement if they have hard or dry stool. Of course, constipation can be caused by withholding bowel movements so the condition only worsens the more the child avoids defecating. When they do this, the only stool that can possibly get through is the extremely watery kind. In many cases, the watery stool escapes and will overflow when the child least expects it and this will more resemble diarrhea than constipation. Hence the term, “overflow constipation”.

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So why does childhood constipation occur when all the child has to do is have a bowel movement? It is not uncommon for children to be shy and nervous about using a public toilet in a school bathroom. Most kids would rather “hold it” until they get home than face possible embarrassment at the hands of other students. By the time they do make it to a place where they feel safe, it may be hard to pass stool or not possible altogether. Rather than admit to having a problem with a very private matter, children remain quiet and the childhood constipation continues to worsen until it becomes too painful or obvious to hide.

Childhood constipation may also begin with potty training due to the stresses and pressures sometimes exerted by parents on their children. Once a very natural function, bowel movements become a source of great attention and potential stress for children during potty training. In fact, childhood constipation during potty training is a very common condition.

Childhood constipation can also be caused by poor diet, lack of fluids or exercise, medication, and the same causes as adult constipation. In most cases, the constipation remedy for children involves a stool softener (which is little more than a mild laxative).

The emotional component of childhood constipation is more pronounced than in adults, but not limited to children—adults withhold bowel movements too. The difference is that diarrhea may be suspected in children rather than constipation.

It is important to remember that children will probably only come to you when the problem becomes severe. Therefore, any complaints about pain while using the bathroom should be taken seriously because untreated childhood constipation can lead to even more severe problems. Also, when stool softeners or any medicine is needed to treat childhood constipation, be sure they use only natural ingredients because medicines containing chemicals can cause serious side effects.

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