The Holiday Health Issue that No One Talks About

It's difficult for many families to maintain their routine during the holidays with travel, treats and a lively social calendar. These factors compound to affect the whole family's eating habits. Parents indulge in extras and deviate from healthy eating, but for kids it means more than extra holiday pounds. Holidays affect children's behavior, especially in the bathroom.

"It's easy to let good habits like eating fiber-rich foods slide during the holidays," said Belinda Basaca, MD, of New Health Pediatrics in Glen Cove, New York. "When you add in a busy schedule and a change of routine due to holiday travel, it can lead to constipation."

While it's difficult to avoid the holiday traditions that can lead to these tummy troubles, parents can take steps to make sure that painful constipation doesn't ruin their child's holiday season.

Help Your Child Get Back to Normal:

If your child becomes constipated, relieve it quickly and then work to fix it. Over-the-counter medicines such as Pedia-Lax®, the first complete line of laxatives made just for kids, offer good oral and rectal options to help parents successfully treat the issue so that you and your child can get back to celebrating the holiday season. Pedia-Lax offers options that work quickly, overnight or gradually and comes in kid-friendly formulas and flavors.

Keep Holiday Treats in Check:

Parents may already struggle with getting their kids to eat right. During the holidays, it's even more difficult since cookies, candy and casseroles, with high fat and low fiber, can be a recipe for constipation.

To avoid this holiday pitfall, scale back on constipation-causing foods such as dairy products and products high in fat and sugar. Limit these, and be sure to find an alternative source of calcium, such as calcium-fortified orange juice. High-fat foods are often favorites during the holidays, so whenever possible, substitute a portion of healthy choices.

Make Time to "Go":

The number one cause of constipation in kids 18 months or older is when children voluntarily avoid going to the bathroom. With a busy schedule of holiday parties, shopping and so many options more exciting than going to the bathroom, kids may not take the time to go. When children "hold it," the colon absorbs the water out of the stool, which makes it hard and dry. If this behavior persists, children's brains can even start to ignore the urge to go to the bathroom.

To ensure your child takes the time, take a break away from the festivities to have your child sit on the toilet for a few minutes, especially after meals. Parents can also address signs of constipation early by tracking their child's bathroom habits with the free Pedia-Lax Poop Journal.

Take Precautions While Traveling:

Holiday travel brings together several different factors that can cause children to have tummy trouble. Travelers tend to eat poorly, consuming lots of snacks, processed foods and carbonated beverages. They also eat at off-hours, especially when traveling across time zones, which can alter children's bathroom habits.

Parents can proactively address these issues by packing healthy snacks such as carrots and foods made with whole grains such as popcorn and whole-wheat crackers. Encourage water instead of soda to prevent bloating from carbonated beverages. For families on a road trip to Grandma's house, make sure to stop at rest stations to walk around. Even a little exercise can help stimulate bowel function to help keep your child regular. "The last thing you want during the holidays is for your child to be feeling miserable," said Dr. Basaca. "By becoming educated about why constipation is so common this time of year, parents have the opportunity to address the issue proactively so that everyone can have a happy and healthy holiday."

Facts About Kids and Constipation

  • While kids are especially prone to constipation during busy or stressful times of the year such as the holidays and back to school, it is also a major health issue for kids year-round.
  • Each year, pediatricians treat more than 20 million cases and a recent survey revealed that 71% of moms of 2- to 11-year-olds have a child who has suffered from constipation in the last year.