Over time, chronic constipation may impair a child's development and disrupt psychological and social functioning, the authors pointed out.
Dr. Howard Bennett, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., and author of It Hurts When I Poop! A Story for Children Who Are Scared to Use the Potty, said the first thing many doctors do is ask parents about a constipated child's diet and suggest either cutting back on white foods and adding fiber-rich foods and supplements, or both. Stool softeners and other gentle medications may also be recommended, he said.
"We can't force a 3-year-old or an 8-year-old to eat a prune . . . so if we cut back on cheese and highly processed foods and increase fruits and vegetables . . . we find most of these kids do better," Bennett said.
Samuels and Bennett said they recommend stimulant laxatives -- which are thought to be potentially habit-forming -- after other options are exhausted.
"By and large, we see these kids pooping," Bennett said. "Often parents won't use enough (medications) or use them long enough. Constipation is not a serious problem, but you have to take it seriously . . . or the ability to evacuate gets worse."
The U.S. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse has more information about constipation.
SOURCES: Merit Tabbers, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric gastroenterologist, Emma Children's Hospital, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Howa
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