Irregularity of bowels; Lack of regular bowel movements
Children and adults should get enough fiber in their diet. Vegetables, fresh fruits, dried fruits, and whole wheat, bran, or oatmeal cereals are excellent sources of fiber. To reap the benefits of fiber, drink plenty of fluids to help pass the stool.
For infants with constipation:
Regular exercise may also help establish regular bowel movements. If you are confined to a wheelchair or bed, change position frequently and perform abdominal contraction exercises and leg raises. A physical therapist can recommend exercises appropriate for your physical capabilities.
Stool softeners (such as those containing docusate sodium) may help. Additionally, bulk laxatives such as psyllium may help add fluid and bulk to the stool. Suppositories or gentle laxatives, such as milk of magnesia liquid, may establish regular bowel movements. Enemas or stimulant laxatives should be reserved for severe cases only. These methods should be used only if fiber, fluids, and stool softeners do not provide enough relief.
Do NOT give laxatives or enemas to children without first asking your doctor.
Call your doctor immediately if you have sudden constipation with abdominal cramps and an inability to pass gas or stool. Do NOT take any laxatives.
Also call your doctor if you have:
Call your child's pediatrician immediately if:
Also call your child's pediatrician if:
Your doctor will perform a physical examination, which may include a rectal exam, and ask questions such as:
The following tests may help diagnose the cause of constipation:
Avoiding constipation altogether is easier than treating it, but involves the same lifestyle measures:
Camilleri M. Disorders of gastrointestinal motility. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 138.
Wyllie R. Motility disorders and Hirschsprung disease. In: Kliegman RM, Jenson HP, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 329.
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