Skip to main content

March is Colorectal Health Awareness Month

Your Guide to Bowel Problems in Children

No one wants to see their child sick, even if it’s just temporary. For example, the occasional upset stomach or diarrhea is expected if your child is home with stomach flu or eats something that doesn’t agree with them. Often the solution is simple; eliminate troublesome foods or recover from the stomach flu. Sometimes you might suspect that there’s something more going on. So, how do you determine that there’s a more serious bowel or digestive problem with your child and how do you work toward a long-term solution?

Digestive and bowel discomfort is quite a large health category, with many temporary or underlying causes that might be contributing to your child’s tummy woes. Take a look at some of the most common bowel problems that are found in children and their symptoms:

  • Constipation: To receive a diagnosis of constipation, your child must be 4 years old or older and exhibit at least two or more of the below symptoms and experience them once a week for at least 2 months. Common symptoms include:
    • Constipation or fewer than three bowel movements per week.
    • Fecal incontinence at least once a week.
    • Large diameter stool or poop, that causes toilet blockage.
    • History of painful or hard bowel movements.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): While uncomfortable, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn’t life threatening for your child, nor does it cause them additional health problems or digestive tract damage. Symptoms of IBS include:
    • Abdominal pain;
    • Constipation;
    • Mucus in their stool;
    • Bloating or abdominal distention; and
    • Diarrhea.
  • Hirschsprung’s disease: Hirschsprung’s disease is a condition that impacts the large intestines. While it’s always present at birth, it can sometimes take a while for symptoms to appear. Children with Hirschsprung’s disease may have trouble emptying their bowels. Symptoms can vary depending on your child’s age:
    • Symptoms in newborns:
      • Difficulty passing stool within the first day or two of being born;
      • Swollen belly, gas or bloating;
      • Diarrhea; and
      • Vomiting (may be brown or green in color).
    • Symptoms in toddlers and older children:
      • Swollen belly and gas;
      • Difficulty gaining weight/growth delay;
      • Constipation; and
      • Vomiting.

While some formal diagnoses, such as constipation, won’t be applied until certain timelines have been met, that doesn’t mean that you can’t see a pediatrician or a doctor for infants and children, before then. Especially if your child’s symptoms begin to get worse such as developing a fever, losing weight or refusing to eat. Don’t delay scheduling your child an appointment with a physician to start the diagnostic process and work toward a treatment plan.

To access the full article on guide to bowel problems in children, click here.