Constipation is very common in children and is usually caused by:
- Insufficient water intake
- A low-fiber diet
- A diet containing excessive amounts of constipating foods such as milk, cheese and bananas
Children who are constipated usually have very large, hard stools, which are infrequent and sometimes painful, in addition to cramps and abdominal pain.
Constipation is often diagnosed after a thorough evaluation of a child’s medical history and physical exam. Further testing is usually not necessary. Careful attention should be paid to children who have had severe constipation from birth, especially if they did not pass meconium stools until two to three days after birth. These children might have Hirschsprung's Disease and require a rectal biopsy.
Treatments for childhood constipation usually include stool softeners and changing the child’s diet to include more fiber and fluids. Good choices of fluids include apple juice, prune juice and switching older children to soy milk. Encouraging high-fiber foods is also beneficial.