During potty training and beyond, parents of young children need to be on the lookout for chronic constipation.
That’s the message from Dr. Maria Oliva-Hemker, director of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.
The center runs a multidisciplinary clinic offering medical and behavioral therapy for chronic constipation affecting children.
Doctors at the center are troubled by a possible rise in the more serious cases of pediatric constipation, not just the mild constipation that is normal in childhood.
They say the fault could lie with children’s lack of physical activity, inadequate water intake and diets too low in fiber.
Outside of children’s habits, there could be other factors leading to a rise in severe cases, including delays in diagnosis, Oliva-Hemker said.
“The reality is that too many children are either not treated at all, start treatment too late or are treated inadequately, leading to persistent, severe and chronic constipation,” Oliva-Hemker said in a Johns Hopkins media release.
A columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently researched severe constipation in kids and was told by pediatric gastroenterologists that 25 percent to 30 percent of young children struggle with constipation.
The columnist, Sarah Jane Tribble, noted that the condition can lead to emotional scars. On the other hand, psychological concerns such as fear of using the toilet can lead to severe constipation.
In the early stages of potty training their children, parents need to keep the experience positive and refrain from reprimands,Tribble learned.
Pediatric gastroenterologists that she interviewed said to be on the lookout for bowel movements that are pellet-like and/or bowel movements that occur less than twice a week.
Other signs that warrant a visit to the doctor’s office include straining with bowel movements, a feeling that the bowel is not empty, and behavior that indicates the child is resistant to “going number two.”