Hidden Ways Children Become Constipated

Hidden Ways Children Become Constipated

One of the most common causes of constipation is inadequate water and fiber intake.  However, there are other not so commonly thought about reasons why children can become constipated. 

  1. Medications

Many non-prescription and prescription medications can have a drying effect on the body or cause slowing of intestinal transit time.  Common medications in children that can have this effect include:

  • Over the counter cough medications that contain codeine or hydrocodone
  • Allergy medications such as Benadryl, Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, and Naproxen
  • Iron supplements
  • Antacids such as Mylanta
  • Calcium Supplements
  • Antidepressant medications such as Amitriptyline and Zoloft

If your child is taking any of these medications and experiencing constipation, then increase their water intake and discuss with your child’s physician if the medication needs to be altered or if a laxative is needed.

  1. Menstrual Cycle

The balance of the hormones Progesterone and Estrogen are what allow ovulation and menstruation.  Progesterone increases immediately after ovulation and decreases slowly until its levels drop enough to trigger menstruation. Progesterone has a slowing effect on the contractility of the smooth muscle of the digestive tract and this can cause bloating, gas, and constipation.  Having your child increase her water intake and limiting salt and refined sugars during this time is often helpful.

  1. Stress

Stress can affect the body in many ways including activating the sympathetic nervous system-the flight or flight response.  This leads to a decrease in peristalsis throughout the digestive system, causing a slowing of the bowels and constipation.  Addressing the cause of the stress will often relieve constipation.

  1. Airplane Travel

The air inside an airplane is extremely dry, with a humidity level of only 10-20% compared to a level of 30-60% humidity that most people are used to.  When the air around you has low humidity, water from your nose, eyes, mouth, and throat is attracted to the drier air molecules in a process similar to evaporation. Over the course of a flight, your body will lose a great deal of its water to the dry air around you without you realizing it.  Becoming mildly dehydrated during a flight can lead to constipation.  Make sure your child drinks water throughout the flight to avoid becoming dehydrated and constipated.

  1. High Altitudes

When traveling to high altitudes to ski or hike, your body acclimates to lower oxygen levels by increasing your breathing.  The increased breathing or panting causes you to exhale more water vapor than usual leading to dehydration and constipation.  Travel with plenty of water so your child avoids become dehydrated at high altitudes.

If you would like more information about gastrointestinal (GI) digestive disorders and nutrition in children, please contact Dr. Mona Dave’s Frisco Office or Request Appointment Here.