Are your child's bowel movements hard and dry, difficult or painful to pass, and less frequent than usual? Is your child complaining of having cramps and stomach ache? If you answered "yes" to any of these, your child might be experiencing symptoms of constipation.
The good news is that constipation can be prevented. Encourage your child to eat fibre-rich foods such as cereals, fruits and vegetables. Offer your child whole fruit rather than fruit juice to increase fibre. Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids, especially water.
In some cases, drinking cow's milk can trigger constipation in children, particularly if they have recently transitioned to it. Avoiding milk for 2 to 4 weeks may be helpful in these instances.
Constipation is also more likely to occur if your child is not staying active and does not get enough exercise. Regular activity and exercise is a good habit to get into early in life. It builds healthy habits that will prevent health problems in the future.
Constipation can make bowel movements painful and uncomfortable. Pain can also be caused by a crack or tear around the anus. To avoid pain, your child may try to hold in a bowel movement. Watch for signs such as fear of using the toilet, as your child may avoid going to the toilet and hold back a bowel movement.
Teach your child not to ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. This may happen if they feel embarrassed to use a public bathroom, if they are afraid or lack confidence to have the bowel movement in the absence of a parent, or if they are just not willing to interrupt their activity or break away from play.
Take time with toilet training your child. Rushing can be stressful for some children, and they can worry and hold back bowel movements. Ease into it, and get your child accustomed to a regular daily toilet routine.
If you can't determine what might be causing your child's constipation, ask your doctor or pharmacist if medications or a disease could be the culprit.
Whatever the cause, if you have taken the preventative measures but the constipation continues or becomes painful, take your child to see a doctor. Constipation is usually harmless, but sometimes it can be a signal of a more serious problem. Talk to your family doctor if you feel your child is constipated often.
There are treatment options available depending on your child's age and the severity of the problem. Talk to your child's doctor or pharmacist about which one is right for your child.
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