Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Constipation (for Teenagers)
- Painful passage of bowel movements: The most reliable
sign of constipation is discomfort with the passage of a
- Inability to pass stools: Such people feel a desperate
urge to have a bowel movement (BM), have discomfort in
the anal area, and strain, but they are unable to pass
a BM after straining and pushing for more than 10
- Infrequent bowel movements: Going 3 or more days without
a BM can be considered constipation, even though this may
cause no pain in some people and even be normal for a
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS IN DEFINING CONSTIPATION
Large or hard BMs unaccompanied by any of the conditions just
described are usually normal variations in BMs. Some normal
people have hard BMs daily without any pain.
Constipation is often due to a diet that does not include
enough fiber. Drinking or eating too many milk products can
cause constipation. It's also caused by repeatedly waiting
too long to go to the bathroom.
Changes in the diet usually relieve constipation. After you
are better, be sure to stay on a nonconstipating diet so that
it doesn't happen again.
Sometimes the trauma to the anal canal during constipation
causes an anal fissure (a small tear). This is confirmed by
finding small amounts of bright red blood on the toilet
tissue or the stool surface.
- Diet treatment
- Eat fruits or vegetables at least three times a day
(raw unpeeled fruits and vegetables are best). Some
examples are prunes, figs, dates, raisins, peaches,
pears, apricots, beans, peas, cauliflower, broccoli,
- Increase bran. Bran is an excellent natural stool
softener because it has a high fiber content. Make
sure that your daily diet includes a source of bran,
such as one of the new "natural" cereals, unmilled
bran, bran flakes, bran muffins, shredded wheat,
graham crackers, oatmeal, high-fiber cookies, brown
rice, or whole wheat bread. Popcorn is one of the
best high-fiber foods.
- Eat fewer constipating foods, such as milk, ice
cream, cheese, yogurt, and cooked carrots.
- Increase the amount of water you drink.
- Stool softeners
If a change in diet doesn't relieve your constipation,
take a stool softener with dinner every night for 1 week.
Stool softeners (unlike laxatives) are not habit-forming.
They work 8 to 12 hours after they are taken. Examples
of stool softeners that you can buy at your drugstore
without a prescription are, Haley's M-O (1 tablespoon),
Metamucil or Citrucel (1 tablespoon), and mineral oil (1
If you have acute rectal pain and need immediate relief,
try one or more glycerin suppositories.
- Common mistakes in treating constipation
Don't use any enemas without your physician's advice.
These can cause irritation or fissures (tears) of the
anus if used excessively. Do not use strong oral
laxatives without asking your physician because they can
cause cramps and become habit-forming.
CALL YOUR PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You develop severe rectal or abdominal pain.
CALL YOUR PHYSICIAN DURING OFFICE HOURS IF:
- You do not have a bowel movement after 3 days on the
- You have other concerns or questions.