Is your child an every-day pooper? Are you sure? A new study, done at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and published in Pediatrics concludes that constipation is the leading cause of emergency department visits due to abdominal pain:
The most common diagnosis seen was constipation, with almost 20% of all patients and [greater than] 25% of children 5 to 12 years of age receiving this diagnosis.
The good news is that very few children needed to be admitted to the hospital when their diagnosis was constipation. Unfortunately, some needed intravenous fluids and narcotics to control their pain, and many needed x-ray imaging of their abdomen to make a definitive diagnosis of constipation. Acute appendicitis — probably the most feared diagnosis — was not common among children showing up in the ED with acute abdominal pain (4%).
So it’s probably a good idea that parents keep an eye on their kids’ stooling (frequency, consistency, amount — the whole poop!), even as they achieve independence with their private bodily functions. Let your pediatrician know if your child is not having a bowel movement every day, or if they are complaining often of abdominal pain. Awareness and a good strategy to keep poops regular should prevent many of those middle-of-the-night ED visits for severe belly pain.