Getting out of routine is one of the biggest causes of constipation in children. After every school holiday we see an increase in the children coming to see us for pooping problems.
Why is holiday constipation a thing?
The biggest cause of constipation in children is called functional constipation. It is not due to any anatomical or physiological problem in a child’s gut, but rather as a result of a child holding their poop in because they delay going to the toilet. Car trips, excitement of a new holiday destination and unfamiliar bathrooms are frequent contributors to holiday constipation. A change in diet while on holiday and drinking less water than usual also contribute to constipation.
How can you prevent holiday constipation?
- Pay attention to wether your child has pooped each day, and find out if they have strained or done firmer poops than usual. The quicker you realise your child is constipated, the faster you can act on it.
- Take you child’s water bottle with you when you go away, and monitor their water intake by getting them to finish their water bottle each day (we aim for 30mls of water per kg of body weight per day).
- Get some fibre in where you can! Start meals with carrot sticks/ celery/ salad, have veggies as a side and have fruit as a dessert to increase fibre intake. A carb heavy diet of bread/pasta and pizza when away is no help at all. Dried fruit can be helpful for fibre but can also be high in sugar so be aware of this.
- AVOID bananas, peanut butter, marshmallows, white bread, white pasta and stodgy breakfast cereals if your child is showing signs of constipation.
- Schedule a 5 minute sit on the loo after dinner if your child hasn’t pooped that day – this is the most important thing you can do to help to keep them regular! Find a bin or step to use as a foot stool so your child’s knees are higher than their hips on the loo to help to allow their pelvic floor to relax more easily.
What about laxative medication?
For the children we see here who have a history of constipation and stool withholding and bedwetting only in the holidays, we suggest Parents consult their Doctors and pack appropriate stool softeners and suppositories to use as needed on holidays.
One painful poop can cause withholding issues in the future.
Remember it only takes one painful poop because a child has delayed going to poo, for the child to associate pooping with pain and then withhold even more in the future to avoid pain. The longer the stool sits in the rectum, the more water is absorbed back into their body and the harder, larger and drier their poop becomes. Passing this poop can then be very difficult and painful as the hard poop can cause a small cut on the child’s anus which then opens up and is painful at subsequent poops, this is called an anal fissure.