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Constipation Symptoms in Kids: When Parents Should Worry?

Published May 29, 2024

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Constipation is a common issue among kids, but determining when it's a cause for concern can be challenging for parents. Understanding the symptoms of constipation and knowing when to seek medical attention is crucial for maintaining kids' digestive health. In this blog, we’ll provide insights into constipation symptoms in kids and red flags parents should look out for. 

Recognizing Constipation Symptoms

Constipation in kids manifests differently from adults and can vary depending on age and individual factors. However, certain common symptoms indicate that a kiddo may be experiencing constipation:

  1. Infrequent Bowel Movements: While the frequency of bowel movements can vary among kids, going longer than three days without a bowel movement may indicate constipation.

  2. Hard or Painful Stools: Stools that are hard, dry, or difficult to pass can be a sign of constipation. Kids may experience pain or discomfort during bowel movements.

  3. Abdominal Pain or Bloating: Constipated kiddos may complain of abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating. They may also appear restless or uncomfortable.

  4. Excessive Straining: Straining or pushing excessively during bowel movements, often accompanied by redness of the face, can indicate constipation.

  5. Soiling or Accidents: Some kids may experience fecal soiling or accidents, known as encopresis, as a result of constipation. This occurs when liquid stool leaks around a hard stool mass in the rectum.

Constipation Symptoms: Red Flags Parent Should Look Out For 

While occasional constipation is common and usually resolves on its own with dietary changes and lifestyle adjustments, certain signs may indicate a more serious underlying issue. Parents should seek medical attention if their little ones experience:

  1. Severe Abdominal Pain: Persistent or severe abdominal pain, especially if accompanied by vomiting or fever, may indicate an obstruction or other gastrointestinal problem requiring immediate medical attention.

  2. Blood in Stool: The presence of blood in the stool, whether bright red or dark, should always be evaluated by a healthcare provider, as it may indicate bleeding or other serious conditions.

  3. Weight Loss or Poor Growth: Persistent constipation accompanied by weight loss or failure to thrive may indicate an underlying medical condition that requires investigation.

  4. Recurrent Constipation: If a kiddo experiences frequent or recurrent episodes of constipation despite dietary and lifestyle changes, a healthcare provider should be consulted to rule out underlying medical conditions.

  5. Changes in Bowel Habits: Any significant changes in bowel habits, such as alternating between diarrhea and constipation, should be discussed with a healthcare provider to rule out underlying issues.

Summary

While occasional constipation is common and manageable, severe abdominal pain, blood in stool, weight loss, recurrent constipation, or significant changes in bowel habits warrant medical attention.

References

  1. Pediatrics: "Pediatric Functional Constipation Treatment" (2014)
  2. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: "Evaluation and Treatment of Pediatric Constipation" (2019)
  3. American Family Physician: "Constipation in Children" (2018)
  4. Journal of Pediatric Health Care: "Constipation in Children: Diagnosis and Management" (2017)
  5. Gastroenterology Nursing: "Pediatric Constipation: An Update" (2018)
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