Constipation can be a common problem for kids and if not taken care of, it can lead to more serious issues. There are multiples reasons why your child may become constipated, including dehydration or diet. Fortunately, there are a number of natural and over-the-counter stool softeners that can help remedy the problem.
Natural Stool Softeners
It is always best to try a natural stool softener first, as these remedies tend to be gentler and have fewer, if any, side effects. Always try natural methods before progressing to over-the-counter stool softening products.
Give your child plenty of water. School-age children should drink three to four glass of water a day. The water is absorbed from the large intestine to hydrate the body and helps make the stool softer and easier to pass.
Apple or Pear Juice
Apple and pear juice contains sorbitol which has a gentle laxative effect. Offer four to six ounces of 100 percent fruit juice daily.
Prune juice is the most popular juice to relieve constipation and is considered a natural laxative. The sorbitol content in prune juice helps soften the stool which makes it easier to pass. Offer four to six ounces. The juice should help within about 24 to 48 hours.
High Fiber Diet
Make sure your child eats a high-fiber diet comprised of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, yogurt (with probiotics), and popcorn. The fiber will help your child form bulky, soft stool. It is also important for your child to drink plenty of water with a high-fiber diet so constipation does not reoccur.
Other Ways for Your Child to Stay Regular
A few other suggestions include the following.
- Make sure your child is active and getting some exercise.
- Regularly scheduled toilet times can help.
- Squatting can help make bowel movements easier. It is the most natural position for human bodies to have a bowel movement. Place a 'step' by the toilet to help get them into more of a squat position.
Over-the-Counter Stool Softeners
If the natural options do not work, it may be time to try an over-the-counter stool softener that is safe and effective.
Over-the-counter fiber supplements are made specifically for kids, and some even come in gummy form. However, it's preferable to increase the fiber in your child's diet first instead of immediately resorting to fiber supplements. Your child needs to drink plenty of water with fiber supplementation for it to be effective.
Glycerin suppositories are inserted into the rectum. They soften impacted stool and are effective within 15 minutes to an hour. If the suppository doesn't help, contact your child's doctor. Do not insert a second suppository.
Laxatives that contain polyethylene glycol (Glycolax or Miralax) will cause a bowel movement in one to three days. These are osmotic laxatives that cause water to be retained in stool so it is looser and passes more easily. You should only follow doctor's directions when giving your child laxatives.
Administering an enema should be used a last resort. It will cause a bowel movement in one to five minutes. Follow your doctor's directions when giving your child an enema. Always attempt other stool softening methods before giving an enema. Do not give an enema to a child younger than two.
When to See the Doctor
If your child has constipation for over two weeks, it could lead to complications or be the sign of an underlying problem. Therefore, it is time to see the doctor especially if the chronic constipation is accompanied by:
- Abdominal or rectal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Blood in the stool
- Skin tears around the anus (anal fissures)
- Intestines protruding from the anus (rectal prolapse)
Back to Normal
Once your child is 'regular' and his bowel movements are back to normal, it is important to keep him that way. Make sure he drinks plenty of water, eats a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and has scheduled toilet times. This simple routine can make a big difference in keeping your child healthy.