Common Childhood Conditions – What is constipation?

Constipation is a common bowel problem in children. It refers to passing hard stools with difficulty, less frequently than normal. A child is considered to have constipation if they pass motion less than four times per week. Constipation affects up to 30% of children and is particularly common among toddlers and pre-school children.

How do I recognise if my child has constipation?

Signs indicating a child is constipated include:

  • Avoiding emptying the bowels.
    • A child may exhibit stool withholding behaviour such as standing on tiptoes and rocking on the heels of the feet, crossing legs, hiding in a corner or being fidgety
  • Crying when passing stools.
  • Passing liquid stools in the pants known as soiling.

How do you diagnose constipation and does my child need any test?

The diagnosis of constipation is made from the history and careful physical examination. Blood tests and scans may be ordered to rule out certain treatable causes. In rare situation, a rectal biopsy (tissue sampling from rectum) is required to diagnose Hirschspung’s disease, a rare condition affecting the nerves of the bowel.

Treatment of constipation

In most cases, constipation can be successfully treated. However, the treatment may be prolonged in resistant cases. The mainstay of treatment will be a healthy diet consisting of adequate fluids and fibre. Laxatives may be prescribed if necessary.

What services for constipation are offered in our clinic?

Our doctor will perform a comprehensive review and treatment for your child including:

  • Detailed history and physical examination
  • Dietary assessment
  • Toilet training advice
  • Blood tests and scans only if indicated
  • Prescription of appropriate medications
  • Monitoring of treatment course

Got more questions? Schedule an appointment today with Dr. Christina Ong.

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