Constipation is a very common problem for children with limited mobility.For most children, constipation means passing hard poo (faeces, stools or motions), with difficulty, less often than normal. For children with reduced mobility constipation can be a constant problem. This is due to a number of reasons, lack of mobility. Muscle dysfunction, low fibre diet and negative side effects from medicines such as Anticholinergics and Opiates – which can have a severe effect on mobility. This became a big problem for our son and we soon realised that if he was constipated it impacted on everything else, his seizures became worse, his food digested more slowly so now we ensure that he goes daily and it really has made a big difference. Listed below are the three primary treatments we use, and they usually work hand-in-hand:
- A stool softener to clear the bowels. These are safe in children, but should be used under the supervision of your paediatrician. Two common mistakes that parents make when giving their child a stool softener for constipation is not using a large enough dose, or stopping it too soon. For example, you might think that you can stop giving a stool softener after your child’s first normal-looking bowel movement, but stopping too soon may just set your child up for another bout of constipation. Some children may need to stay on a stool softener for a few weeks. Your doctor can advise you on the right dosing schedule for your child.
- A high-fibre diet with plenty of fluids. This means loading your child’s plate with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber cereals, whole grain breads (look for at least 3-5 grams of fibre per serving), and a variety of beans and other pulses, like chickpeas and lentils. Foods containing probiotics, like yogurt, can also promote good digestive health. While focusing on fiber, don’t forget fluids. If your child is eating plenty of high-fiber food but not getting enough fluid to help flush it through his system, you can make matters worse. Your child should be drinking plenty of water throughout the day, along with some milk. Limit sugary drinks to 100mls a day in younger children and 180mls in school-aged kids.