What to do if Your Child is Constipated

When most people think of constipation, their mind automatically goes to the elderly population. However, it is a problem that can occur in people of any age. Yes, that includes children. Oftentimes, parents are unsure of what to do when their child is constipated.

Fortunately, this isn’t typically a serious issue and should resolve on its own with some supportive care and home remedies. The important thing to remember is that no extreme measures should be taken. Children’s bodies are extremely resilient and can bounce back from a variety of illness and conditions. Childhood constipation is no different. As such, drastic measures (like giving them a laxative) could actually do more harm than good.

So, what should you be doing if you think your child is constipated?

Start by Identifying the Problem

Unlike when you feel constipated, children might not be as in-tune with their body. This means that they could be withholding stool and not knowing it. In children between ages 2 to 5 years old, this is one of the most common causes of constipation. Older children may do it as well, for example, if they don’t like using the restroom at school. Another cause of childhood constipation is poor hydration. When the body is dehydrated, stools become harder and more difficult to pass.

Determining if your child is constipated depends on their age. However, the most common symptom for children of any age is abdominal pain. This could be anything from cramping to stomachaches and/or nausea. If your child isn’t old enough to tell you this, look for signs like grimacing and guarding the area from touch. Many children with constipation also become very cranky. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, not having a bowel movement for more than two days is a classic sign of constipation.

Continue with Supportive Care

The best way to treat childhood constipation is with supportive care. This entails things like hydration and diet changes. For any child experiencing constipation, increasing their fluid intake may be all that’s necessary to fix the problem. Your child should be drinking at least eight cups of water per day for proper hydration. That number increases if they are sweaty due to exercise or a fever.

For children eating solid foods, adding choices high in fiber can also help get things moving. Choosing foods like whole fruits with the skin, broccoli and whole grains helps maximize dietary fiber intake. Children should consume their age plus five grams of fiber per day. So, a four-year-old should eat a total of nine grams per day. Meanwhile, apple juice acts as a natural laxative. Adding a cup or two of it into your child’s diet can help clear up constipation.

Finally, exercise can aid the bowels by stimulating movement. Encourage your child to be active and enjoy about 30-60 minutes of exercise each day. Along with the dietary changes mentioned above, this may help pass a bowel movement.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

Sometimes, home remedies for childhood constipation aren’t enough. In these situations, it is wise to seek out professional help. Your child’s pediatrician may prescribe a laxative or enema to move things along. However, these medications can be dangerous if they aren’t used correctly. As such, you should avoid using them at home unless you are specifically instructed to do so.

Focus on Prevention

Although childhood constipation is a relatively easy condition to reverse, preventing it is even easier. Interestingly enough, preventing constipation looks a lot like treating it. A combination approach of sufficient hydration, a diet rich in fiber, and daily exercise can keep the bowels functioning normally.

Velocity Urgent Care Has Your Back

If your child is experiencing severe constipation that won’t clear up on its own and your pediatrician isn’t available, a trip to urgent care might be a good idea. Our providers can rule out any other problems that could be occurring as well as safely prescribe a laxative or enema.

Bring your child to any of our 14 convenient locations across Virginia for top-notch care on your schedule.  We are in Williamsburg, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Newport News, Woodbridge, South Boston and beyond. You can reduce your wait by reserving your spot on our website at www.velocityuc.com or just walk in and be seen by our friendly staff at any time.

For times that diet and hydration changes aren’t enough to fix the problem, Velocity Urgent Care is ready to help get your child feeling better.