Taking care of toddlers can be a challenging and rewarding experience. The joy children bring to our lives is priceless, but at so tender an age, they need extra attention and care. Toddlers can experience a variety of discomfort at their age. Some of these include toothaches, stomach aches, and even constipation.
A lot of discomforts that toddlers feel may be a part of growing up, but there are times when something as familiar as constipation becomes an actual emergency. The key to knowing the first thing to do is to be able to identify: When is constipation an emergency in toddlers?
Constipation In Toddlers: Causes and Signs
Although most toddlers make a bowel movement once a day, it is not uncommon for some toddlers to experience constipation. They are caused by a variety of factors like personally holding stools, lack of physical activity, and lack of fiber in the diet. Knowing why constipation could happen will give you an idea of whether the constipation your toddler is experiencing is an emergency or whether a lifestyle change would suffice.
- Behavior – toddlers typically show nuances in behavior like choosing to hold their stool.
- Lack of water and fibrous food – a child’s diet, including their intake of water, can be a cause for constipation. Make sure your toddler has a balanced diet.
- Disruption of a routine – a trip or a change of sleeping patterns can affect a child’s bowel movement.
- Lack of exercise or physical activity – a lack of physical activity can slow down the body’s ability to digest food
- Medication – certain types of medication could affect a child’s bowel movement. It is best to consult your pediatrician if your toddler is currently taking certain medications for clarification.
Understanding why constipation could happen will help you in your efforts of prevention, but if and when it does happen, it is good to check the signs whether constipation is mild or severe.
There are signs to look out for that indicate constipation in your child is severe and should push you to take them to the emergency room immediately:
- Severe Abdominal Pain – If your toddler complains of extreme abdominal pain, bring your child to the emergency quickly.
- Chronic vomiting/ Vomiting green – Green vomit signals vomiting of bile. Bile vomit can happen because of intestinal blockage.
- Swollen Abdomen – Observe your toddler’s abdomen. If the abdomen appears swollen, take your toddler to an emergency immediately for treatment.
On the other hand, if you notice some of the things below, you must bring your toddler to the hospital the soonest time possible:
- Fever– be very observant about how your toddler feels so you can prevent escalation
- Blood in stool – blood in the stool can indicate an intestinal blockage or wound
- Painful urination – always check in with how your toddler is feeling when urinating
- Weight loss – is your toddler losing weight? Visit the doctor as soon as possible
- Abdominal pain – if your toddler starts complaining of pain in the abdomen, visit the doctor before it becomes severe.
Constipation Prevention and Constipation Care
We discussed the signs and causes of constipation, but it is a wise move to prevent constipation in your toddler early enough. Better than being prepared for an emergency is knowing how to avoid a crisis. Prevention, after all, is still better than cure.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent toddler constipation:
- DIET – Introducing fiber in your child’s diet will help prevent constipation. Here are some fiber-rich foods to consider:
- Bran: bran cereals, bran muffins
- Fruits and vegetables
- Apples and pears
- Whole grain bread
- WATER – increase the amount of water intake in your toddler. You may place it in a child-friendly container with marks so you can monitor the amount of water your toddler drinks in a day.
NOTE: To increase the effectiveness in diet change, a parent must lead by example.
- REGULAR EXERCISE/ PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – set a schedule for some light physical activity with your toddler—exercise and physical activity that aids in digestion.
- POTTY TRAINING – Toddlers acknowledge routine and habit. Encourage this by giving them some potty/toilet training. Thirty minutes after mealtime, encourage your child to spend time in the toilet. Assist them with the proper posture and do this regularly to create a habit in your toddler even if there is no bowel movement.
Generally, constipation will heal through an adjustment in diet and some lifestyle changes. When it does occur, however below are some things you can do if and when your child experiences non-severe constipation:
- MEDICATION – There are some over the counter laxatives and stool softeners that can alleviate your toddler’s constipation. Choosing the type of medication must be carefully guided by your pediatrician.
- INCREASE INTAKE OF HIGH FIBER FOOD
- LESSEN INTAKE OF DAIRY
- LESSEN INTAKE OF FOOD THAT MAY CAUSE CONSTIPATION
- White rice
- White bread
- Junk food: processed foods
- PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
- Children aged 1-4 need at least 3 hours of physical activity
- Children 5 and older need at least an hour of physical activity in a day
- BEHAVIOR CORRECTION – reminding your toddler that holding in stool can cause pain will help them avoid this particular behavior.
Toddlers deserve to enjoy life to the fullest, and we can help them achieve that by making sure we take the necessary precautions to prevent discomfort like constipation. The key to effective parenting is to be equipped with the right information and to be prepared. Being prepared for any emergency, especially an emergency involving toddlers, should be treated as a priority. When is constipation an emergency in toddlers? This information should equip you for this kind of emergency and give you enough knowledge to hopefully avoid it. Know more about first aid.