Childhood constipation as serious as asthma or ADHD

Having studied data on children under 18 who were diagnosed with constipation or prescribed a laxative over two consecutive years (2003 and 2004), researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital at Ohio State University suggest that the burden of illness in children suffering from constipation, and the costs associated with this condition, are roughly of the same magnitude as those for asthma and ADHD, but that constipation does not receive anywhere as much attention in public health campaigns.

Despite being considered by many a relatively benign condition the day-to-day struggle caused by constipation can often be emotionally devastating, and can impact on the overall health and well-being of affected children and their families.

One in four children will have constipation at some point, caused by a number of things such as not eating enough fibre or fruit and vegetables, not wanting to use unfamiliar toilets and ignoring the urge to go while playing.

Parents should talk to their children about their toilet habits and make sure they are having a bowel movement at least every other day. For mild cases of constipation, prune or apple juice, high-fibre cereal, or over-the-counter softeners or laxatives made for children may help. If the problem persists, parents should seek the advice of a doctor.
The study is to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics in early 2009

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First Published August 2009

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