Is Stool Softener Safe for Children?

Baby toilet bowl and regular toilet
A blue baby toilet seat is seen on top of an adult toilet. (Image: John_Kasawa/iStock/Getty Images)

Children may suffer from constipation when hardened stools become difficult or painful to pass. Left untreated, the condition may become chronic, as a child becomes fearful of defecation and holds in his feces. Stool softeners and other remedies can safely help alleviate the symptoms of constipation and get your child back to regularity.

Causes of Constipation

Constipation occurs when your child does not have enough moisture in her waste material to pass it easily. The muscles in your child's lower intestines and rectum may become stretched out or weak from holding in large amounts of hardened stool, making it difficult to pass the feces out of her body. Straining during defecation can cause your child's rectum to develop tiny painful fissures, causing her to become fearful of defecation and withhold her stools, exacerbating the condition.

Symptoms of Constipation

Your child may be constipated if he passes less than two stools a day, appears to strain or turns red in the face while defecating, complains of a tummy ache, is unusually irritable or weepy or refuses to eat. Other signs of constipation include hard, dark, or blood-tinged stools or, in an infant, spasmodic drawing up of the legs during defecation.

Stool Softeners

Suppository stool softeners for children are available for purchase without a prescription at your local pharmacy or drug store. The tiny, rocket-shaped capsules are filled with glycerin, which lubricates your child's anal lining when inserted well into the rectum. Liquid glycerin is another form of stool softener you can drop into the rectum to help loosen and ease the passage of impacted feces. Although generally safe, you should only use over-the-counter stool softeners on the advice of your pediatrician and for no more than a few days at a time.

Other Constipation Remedies

Feed your child a fiber-rich diet, including bran, whole grains and leafy vegetables, and increase the amount of water he drinks to help loosen his bowels and aid digestion. Exercise helps with proper digestion, so be sure your child keeps moving every day. Use natural laxatives, such as prunes, diluted prune juice or pureed pears, peaches, or plums to help keep your child's bowels moving. Ask Dr. Sears suggests sprinkling a teaspoon or two of Psyllium husk, bran, or powder on his food each day or mixing it into a smoothie to keep his bowels relaxed and allow for the easy passing of stools.

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