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Preventing Constipation and Diarrhea in Children

The human bowel is made up of three parts and they are the small intestines, colon and rectum. The digestive system breaks down and absorbs all the food and fluids we consume into nutrients needed to fuel the body. It begins at the mouth and runs through the oesophagus, the stomach, the small intestine, the large intestine or colon and lastly through the rectum and anus.

Good bowel health is important for children’s overall health. Dr. Margaret Kannimmel, Consultant Pediatrician from Columbia Asia Hospital, Setapak takes on a few questions from us to help decipher this importance.

SKW: What do parents need to know about their child’s bowel health?

Dr. Margaret: Regular bowel movements are important for child’s health. However, each child has their own pattern of bowel movements. Some may go every day or some may do it once or twice a week.

SKW: What are the signs of bowel issues in children that parents have to be aware of?

Dr. Margaret: Constipation and diarrhea are the most common issues. Constipation is passing stools less frequently or the child experiences pain passing hard stools. Hard stools can be associated with bleeding and this can be of concern to parents.

Diarrhea is the passing of watery stools with / without blood. This can be associated with fever and vomiting. If the diarrhea continues, it can lead to dehydration and parents need to seek medical treatment fast.

SKW: Is a child’s diet linked to his / her bowel health?

Dr. Margaret: Diet plays a major role in a child’s bowel health. Poor intake of fiber and water can lead to constipation. Infective diarrhea is usually caused by poor hygienic preparation of food leading to food poisoning. Non infective diarrhea may be caused by allergies, intolerance, absorption problems or secondary response to medications like antibiotics.

SKW: What can parents do to ensure that their children have healthy bowels?

Dr. Margaret: Parents should ensure the child’s diet is well balanced with enough fiber and fluids. Offer water instead of juices as juices contain sugar which can worsen existing diarrhea.

Try to get your child used to regular toilet routines but do not force as children may hold back bowel movements if they are pressured.

Seek medical treatment fast if your child is unwell and not feeding normally. Learn to recognize danger signs especially if a child is dehydrated from diarrhea.


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