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Demystifying constipation

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Good toilet posture can help constipated children pass stools

Childhood constipation is a common reason for parents seeking help and advice. Siba Prosad Paul and Christine Routley provide an overview of managing the condition in the community.

The word constipation has been derived from the Latin word 'constipare' which means 'to push together'. 1,2 It has a prevalence of 5 to 30 per cent in children and is commonly idiopathic in nature.3,4 Idiopathic constipation has been defined by the 2010 NICE guidelines as 'constipation that cannot (currently) be explained by any anatomical, physiological, radiological or histological abnormalities'.3 The existing definitions of constipation are not foolproof as these mostly deal with how many times the child defecates, the consistency and what the parents may interpret as constipation. Therefore, any definition of constipation should not solely focus on the quality or frequency of stools, as this will fail to highlight a true reflection of the broader picture, along with its consequences to the child and the family.2

It is a common problem in children for which consultation with a health professional is frequently requested by parents. It is estimated that up to 10 per cent of referrals made to paediatric services are related to constipation.5 Children with constipation often have infrequent and/or painful defecation, fecal incontinence, and abdominal pain. It causes significant distress to the child and family and also has


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