During the toddler phase of life, a child is transitioning from eating soft, pureed foods to eating a more normal diet of semi-hard foods that the whole family is enjoying. These dietary changes can contribute to various bowel inconsistencies, including mucus in the stool. Sometimes, mucus is perfectly normal when it occurs infrequently, but caregivers should consult a health care professional to have mucus in the stool examined.
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Mucus is found naturally in the digestive tract, specifically in the intestines, to keep the lining of the colon moist and lubricated explains MayoClinic.com. It is possible for some mucus to be passed during a regular bowel movement as it moves down the lower intestines and colon. When this small amount of mucus appearance infrequently, it is not a reason to worry. Caregivers should still talk to a doctor about it when it occurs in their toddler to make sure it is normal.
An increase in mucus in the stools of a toddler is usually a sign of inflammation or irritation in the digestive tract. In order to pass the waste matter through the intestines, the walls contract. These contractions move liquid, solid and mucus through the intestines and eventually out of the body in the form of a bowel movement. When the intestines are inflamed, the body may produce more mucus as a way to protect itself or soothe the discomfort. The excess mucus is a symptom of something that needs evaluated by a health care professional, but the mucus itself is beneficial.
Numerous intestinal infections can affect a toddler. Day care and school settings promote the spread of intestinal bugs due to the children sharing toys and surfaces. Parasites, viruses and bacteria can be spread from one toddler to another in this environment. Shigella bacteria is a common bacterial infection that affects kids age two to four, explains KidsHealth from Nemours.
Several inflammatory bowel conditions can cause excess mucus in the stools. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse points out that irritable bowel syndrome is one possible cause of mucus in the stools. IBS is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, irregular bowel habits that range from constipation to frequent diarrhea and mucus in the stool. Similarly, colitis and Crohn's disease have these symptoms and are the result of abnormal intestinal inflammation. Most inflammatory bowel diseases affect adults, but they can occur in toddlers.
Many causes of mucus in a toddler's stool will clear up on their own. In the event that an infection has occurred, the child will need to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, practice proper hygiene to prevent the spread of the bug and may need a bland diet until the infection subsides. In some cases, an antibiotic or other medication to remove parasites will be prescribed.
Inflammatory bowel disorders are difficult to treat, but they can be managed by monitoring the toddler's diet to identify triggers. Sometimes, steroids or other medications are prescribed to manage pain and other symptoms, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Mucus caused by food allergies or lactose intolerance is treated by avoiding the allergen or lactose product.
A toddler who suffers from constipation or infrequent bowel movements and secretes mucus with each bowel movement should be treated by a health care professional. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse explains that mucus is pushed out from the anus if the toddler has rectal prolapse from persistent constipation. A prolapse is characterized by the rectum being closed despite the child's attempt to push fecal matter out. Surgery to correct the prolapse is the most effective treatment.
Another uncommon but serious cause of mucus in a toddler's stool is an intussusception. MedlinePlus points out that this occurs when a part of the intestine is being pulled inward onto itself. This causes the blockage of food that is trying to pass through the intestine. The result is the blood supply being cut off and the portion of the intestine dying off. In addition to mucus occurring, the child may have blood in the stools and a jelly-like red mucus. This is a serious condition that needs medical treatment.
- MayoClinic.com: What Causes Mucus in Stool? Is This a Concern?
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Constipation
- National Digestives Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children
- MedlinePlus: Intussusception--Children
- TeensHealth from Nemours: Gastrointestinal Infection and Diarrhea
- KidsHealth from Nemours: Shigella