Fecal Incontinence and Children

Fecal Incontinence and Children

Fecal incontinence is a condition where the person loses the ability to control defecation which causes the involuntary loss of bowel contents. In children, stool incontinence occurs mainly because of two reasons, constipation and in some cases because of birth defects and genetic disorders. On a larger scale, children tend to get affected by fecal incontinence because of chronic constipation.

What is Chronic Constipation and Why Does it Affect Children?

  • Chronic constipation is the irregular, difficult, or partial evacuation of bowel contents. Different people define constipation based on their experience. While some might call irregularity as constipation, some might refer to painful or difficult excretion as constipation.
  • According to medical professionals, children between the age of 3 to 6 tend to be affected by chronic constipation the most. The main reason behind this is that since this is the age where children are potty-trained, they tend to ignore the importance of defecation. Children cannot always control the functions of the body as compared to an adult.
  • Many a time potty-trained children often suffer constipation because they simply refuse to go to the bathroom. The problem might come from an embarrassment over using a public toilet or reluctance to stop playing and going to the bathroom. But if a child holds in the stool, the feces gets collected and hardens within the rectum. In such cases, the child might have a stomach ache and might not eat much, despite being very hungry. And so whenever eventually they pass the stool, it can be very painful, which can induce a fear of having a bowel movement.

What is Soiling?

A constipated child may soil their underpants too. Soiling often takes place when liquid stool from the upper part in the bowel goes past the hard stool in the rectum and leaks out. Soiling is a sign of encopresis. Remember that this is involuntary and your child did not do this on purpose. They are not in control of the bowel and so they might not even know when the liquid stool has passed.

Treating Fecal Incontinence in Children

  • Firstly, to treat encopresis we have to pass the built-up stool. The doctor may prescribe one or more enemas or a drink that helps clean out the bowel, like magnesium citrate, mineral oil, or polyethylene glycol. Consumption of these liquids helps in clean passage of the hard stool, thus restricting its accumulation in the rectum.
  • The next important step is to prevent future instances of constipation. You as an adult have to play a big role in this part of your child's treatment. You have to teach your child about bowel habits, which means to train your child to have regular bowel movements. Give rewards or gifts for regular bowel movements and remember that it is important not to punish your child for incontinence instances.
  • Changing eating habits may be important too. Your child should eat more high-fiber foods to soften stool, should avoid dairy products if they cause constipation, and drink plenty of fluids every day, including water and juices like prune, grape, or apricot, which help prevent constipation. If highly necessary, the doctor can prescribe laxatives.
  • It can take several months to break the pattern of withholding stool and constipation. And episodes may occur again in the future. The key is to pay close attention to your child's bowel habits and to keep supporting them throughout the ordeal of stool incontinence.


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