Most parents know what to look for when their child is constipated. Usually the child strains, has difficulty passing hard stool, and spends long periods in or makes frequent trips to the bathroom with no results. Sometimes the child will complain of stomach pain, or sometimes he/she will just cry while clinging to his/her belly. These are obvious signs. Parents should know there are other symptoms or clues that suggest constipation.
Sometimes a child may display the following:
- Wetting at night (bed-wetting) or wetting during the day (accidents), especially after the child is potty-trained; another term for this is enuresis
- Urinary tract infections, which may result from constipation and have symptoms including frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate, pain when urinating, starting and stopping urination
- Cramps, stomachaches, nausea
- Soiling – when liquid stool leaks around an impacted stool mass, resulting in staining of the underwear. This is an involuntary action that can be misinterpreted by parents as a fecal accident not related to constipation. Another term for this is encopresis.
There also can be psychological or behavioral symptoms, mostly in nonverbal children but also in verbal children as well. Some of these are:
Clinginess to a parent or caregiver
Retreating to the corner of a room or underneath a table for periods of time
General increased irritability and/or anxiety
Refusing to eat/drink or eating/drinking less than usual
Avoiding the bathroom if child is potty-trained
Not wanting to leave the home or a familiar place
These are some clues that indicate your child may be constipated. Constipation is a vicious cycle. When a dry, hard stool is impacted in the colon and rectum, it is painful for the child to pass it. In avoiding the pain, the child subconsciously or consciously "holds it in." When this occurs, the stool becomes harder and sometimes larger, causing the painful cycle to continue. Sometimes when the rectum is full of stool, newer soft fecal matter will leak around the lodged stool. This may mask the constipation and confuse parents because soft stool is passed.
Pedia-Lax® has a full line of laxatives for children. The products provide relief within hours. Pedia-Lax® Chewable Tablets work quickly, in 30 minutes to six hours. Pedia-Lax® Liquid Stool Softener is designed for less urgent cases when gradual relief over a 12- to 72-hour period is wanted. These formulations are specifically designed for kids, making them preferable to the adult formulations found in stores. Products like the Pedia-Lax® Liquid Glycerin Suppositories, Pedia-Lax® Glycerin Suppositories, and Pedia-Lax® Enema are also designed specifically for kids and can help them pass the stool quickly.
Parental awareness, early detection, behavior modification such as rewarding the child for going to the bathroom regularly, in conjunction with the Pedia-Lax® products, are ways to help get your child back on a healthy cycle of regular, painless bowel movements. As always, consult your family pediatrician when constipation is suspected and a plan of management is being considered. Furthermore, don't wait too long to see your child’s doctor if symptoms persist, as it could point to something other than constipation.