Constipation in children: when the intestine is sluggish

Everyone knows it: Sometimes the bowel goes limp. Whether on vacation due to changed eating habits and less exercise, after an infection or for no apparent reason: suddenly the digestion no longer works as usual. But how dangerous is constipation in children?

That’s what the pediatrician Dr. med. Nadine McGowan

Abdominal pain and constipation, also called constipation, are common in children. How does constipation manifest in children? Apart from the above, what are the reasons for acute or chronic constipation? What can be done therapeutically? How can the vicious cycle of painful bowel movements, the resulting retention of stool and further stool hardening be broken?

Acute constipation can be extremely painful – not infrequently I have seen children who went to the emergency room pale with pain and unable to walk, so that everyone thought: “We can immediately call the surgeons if this is not the case for the operating room , I do not know either!"

Course and treatment of constipation

And then a solid (chair) roller is felt in the left lower abdomen during the examination. Upon request, the last bowel movement was hard and or a few days ago. On a rectal-digital investigation (Examination of the rectum with the little finger) is usually omitted in children, if it is an otherwise clear finding. As a rule, an enema is made in children if constipated – very carefully and with warmed table salt or glycerin to soften the hard chair roller. A short time later, the – very relieving – bowel movement takes place and the child, who you just saw on the operating table, happily runs out of the ambulance. This is usually the course of acute constipation.

Causes of constipation and chronic constipation in children

A Constipation in children often occurs due to food changes, after infections or even in teething children and can often be eliminated by one-off, laxative measures. The situation is different with chronic constipation: Digestion is permanent only very rarely, bowel movements are hard and painful. The children have to “learn” again that going to the toilet is not an unpleasant experience.

The toilet environment should be comfortable – some children are afraid of falling into the toilet and therefore hold their chair back. Constipation can result Photo: Fotolia

Chronic constipation in children has other reasons than acute. There are usually permanent nutritional errors. This includes an insufficient amount of drink, especially if you consume a lot of fiber – sufficient digestion is essential for uncomplicated digestion of fiber that actually helps digestion. In addition, "stuffing" foods such as chocolate, bananas, white bread, pasta or white rice promote intolerance.

But it can also be caused by a disease such as an underactive thyroid. Therefore, in the event of chronic constipation, this should always be clarified. Lactose intolerance or other food intolerances can in rare cases also be shown by constipation and not by diarrhea.

What to do if you have sluggishness?

There are also people who always have a "sluggish bowel" and need a lot of fluid to ensure normal digestion. Others are "thrown off the rails" by only small changes in the menu or their way of life and then suffer from constipation. These patients can often help themselves with home-softening home remedies, such as a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, sauerkraut or plum juice, milk sugar (attention, milk sugar can lead to severe flatulence in some patients and is contraindicated especially for people with lactose intolerance!), Flax or Psyllium or dried plums (watch out for additional liquid here!), To name the most common.

Speak she with Your family doctor or pediatrician if you are unsure about what you can try to manage constipation in children. The doctor should always clarify whether there are no organic causes for constipation.

To find out the vicious circle of stool behavior in children after the search for the cause and the Breaking constipation often requires prolonged treatment with stool softening medications like Movicol. The dose is adjusted so that a soft, non-painful stool (gait) results and is maintained for a certain time. The purpose of this is to link the child’s thoughts “Stool is uncomfortable, so I prefer to hold back. " to solve. After a while, the dose is gradually reduced again. Incidentally, these drugs cannot be compared with the otherwise known “laxatives”, which make the intestines even slower in the long run and can lead to severe electrolyte imbalance. Laxatives are not allowed for children.

Constipation in children can quickly become dangerous. It is therefore essential to consult your pediatrician Photo: Fotolia

Wrong toilet environment and lack of exercise favor constipation

By the way, it should not be neglected in children that the toilet environment is pleasant and their privacy is respected. They should “be able to do their business in peace” and, if necessary, have a child’s toilet seat so that they sit comfortably and do not have to worry about falling into the toilet. Sometimes these things are also a reason for stool retention and the consequential problems.

Incidentally, what is always beneficial for a healthy bowel and bowel movements is physical exercise. This also keeps the intestines busy. And: Many children have an episode of prolonged constipation in the first few years of life. The switch from milk food to solid complementary foods is not easy for every belly.


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Christina Cherry
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