What are the complications associated with constipation in children?

Complications of constipation in children include:

  • Fecal impaction (hard stool packs the intestine and rectum too tightly to push out)
  • Anal fissures (small tears in the anus that cause bleeding, itching or pain)
  • Rectal prolapse (the rectum sticks out of the anus)
  • Encopresis (inability to control passage of stool, which leads to stool accidents)

How is constipation in children treated?

Children who are constipated can often be treated at home. Treatments include:

  • Changes in diet, including drinking enough liquids and eating fruits and vegetables to get extra fiber;
  • Encouraging the child to use the bathroom regularly, especially after eating, through a reward system;
  • Holding off on potty training until the constipation goes away.

(Do not use enemas or laxatives to help the child pass the stool without a doctor’s approval.)

For children with complications of constipation, the following are common treatments:

  • Anal fissures can be treated with creams, stool softeners and warm baths.
  • Rectal prolapse may be treated by a doctor manually pushing the rectum back in place.
  • Under a doctor’s direction, Miralax or a glycerin suppository may be used.

Children who are constipated should avoid eating or drinking foods with little or no fiber, such as:

  • Ice cream
  • Fast food
  • Chips
  • Cheese
  • Prepared foods
  • Processed foods
  • Excessive amounts of whole milk

If these treatments do not help the child, he or she should be seen by a doctor.

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