Study Shows Constipation in Children Poses Serious Health Issues

Researchers at Columbia University have found that constipation in children can pose serious health issues that parallel the cost of treating children with asthma and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study is scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, early 2009.

Gastroenterologists and researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital teamed up to find out the actual cost and use of health care facilities associated with children in the United States who suffer from constipation. The research group collected data from surveys targeting children under age 18 who were treated for constipation over two years (2003-2004), receiving laxatives or a diagnosis of constipation.

The study results showed that constipated children use health care services more than do other children, costing $3.9 billion annually. The hospital group believes constipation in children should receive more attention from public health campaigns.

Study author, Carlo Di Lorenzo, MD, chief of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Nationwide Children’s and faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine says, “Despite being considered by many a relatively benign condition, childhood constipation has been shown to be associated with a significantly decreased quality of life. The day-to-day struggle caused by constipation can often be emotionally devastating, and can also have an impact on the overall health and well-being of affected children and their families.” The goal of the study is to increase awareness of the problem, leading to early intervention.

Pediatric gastroenterologist at the hospital, and faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Hayat Mousa, MD suggests that parents pay attention to their child’s bathroom habits. Ask your child if they have had a bowel movement. Dr. Mousa says your child should have a bowel movement at least every other day.

Preventing childhood constipation is easily accomplished through dietary and lifestyle activities that can prevent the problem. No parent wants an extra trip to the hospital, pharmacy or physician.

Make sure your child eats plenty of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Provide water, avoiding overly sweetened and carbonated beverages, especially those that might contain caffeine. High fiber cereals, given daily, can prevent constipation in children, and can be used to treat mild cases. If your child experiences abdominal pain, fever or excessive discomfort, make sure you have a physician’s exam to look for causes other than constipation. Above all, ensure that your child gets regular vigorous activity and exercise.

Keep prune juice and apple juice handy. Offer it to your child at the first sign of constipation. Consider the upcoming holidays as a challenge. Watch what your child is eating. Try to avoid irregularities in your schedule that can contribute to your child becoming constipated.

Childhood Constipation Deemed Significant Health Issue