Constipation is common in children. It can occur at any time and may be the result of changes in diet, daily routine and stress. In most cases it self resolves with increased fluids and a balanced diet but it is important to understand what the signs are and whether it is becoming a far greater problem.

Signs of constipation include : infrequent dry hard painful stools, abdominal pain, reduced appetite, nausea and vomiting, irritability, urinary incontinence, recurrent UTIs and faecal incontinence.

Hard painful poo is going to turn any child off trying to use the toilet. If your child has a history of constipation and you are having difficulties with toilet training you need to help reassure them that when they poo it will not hurt. Until your child is confident that pooing will not cause discomfort they will be resistant to use the toilet and often will hold on to their stools only making the situation worse. Ways to help stimulate the bowel include: increase fluids (pear juice, water), diet high in soluable and insoluable fibre, exercise (swimming, dancing, trampoline) and use of stool softners (laxatives) are all known to get the bowel moving. Parents are often concerned and reluctant to use laxatives but recent studies reassure that laxatives do not cause dependency or bowel laziness and in fact it is the opposite children who have recurrent constipation that is not managed well are more at risk of a slow, sluggish bowel with decreased sensory function.

Many parents presume that if their child is having small accidents in their jocks regularly that they are not constipated and instead think the child is being lazy or naughty and just not using the toilet. This is misunderstood. If your child seems to always have a small amount of loose liquid poo in their jocks this is often a sign they are very constipated and your child is genuinely unaware that they need to go to the toilet or that they have soiled themselves. If they are showing symptoms it is really important you go and speak to your GP.

How should poo look? It should be like a sausage, smooth,soft, golden brown and non offensive smelling.

Parent’s toileting difficulties can be very frustrating. It is really important that if your child has a history of constipation to take this into consideration. If this information as made you question what is happening with your little one then please send me an email or make an appointment with your GP to have a chat.

(Reference: IMPACT Paediatric Bowel Care Pathway Australia)trying to poo

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