Constipation is not just a decrease in frequency of defecations, it can also present as painful or hard stools, incontinence, large masses in the rectum and stools or voluntary stool retention.
During digestion, the colon or large intestine absorbs any remaining water from the forming stool. In constipated children, a vicious cycle is formed, where they don’t want to defecate because it will hurt, causing feces to spend more time inside the colon, causing feces to dry up even more and impact itself.
Increasing liquids, adding fiber or using prebiotics or probiotics have diverse results in children, and there is no scientific evidence that supports this as treatment of constipation.
The preferred treatment plan is the use of laxatives. There is a wide variety of laxatives available, such as lactulose, polyethylenglicol (PEG), milk of magnesia and mineral oil. As of now, the best option is PEG because lactulose has been proven safe to use in children of all ages and is more readily available. But always talk to your doctor to see what is the best option for your child.
If your child presents fever, bloody stools, bilious vomiting, failure to thrive, constipation early in life (less than a month old), or abdominal distension, take your child to your doctor to rule out an underlying disease as a cause of constipation.