Constipation is a very common aliment in babies and young children. It is often down to poor diet or can just be idiopathic, meaning there is no reason for the constipation but should only be tempory and will usually sort itself out after a couple of days. However there are some babies/children (1 in 5000 in fact) that suffer with an abnormal but treatable condition called Hirschsprung’s disease and is considered a birth defect.
What is Hirschsprung Disease?
A healthy bowel will work by moving stools through the colon in a wave like motion until it is excreted, this is called peristalsis, similar to how an earth worm moves and is powered by nerves in the bowel, this creates a tighten and relax like motion. A baby with Hirschsprung diease is missing these nerves receptors in part of their bowel, where part of the bowel is permanently contracted resulting in blocking the stool form passing through.
How to tell if my child has Hirschsprug disease?
In most cases the signs will be noticeable from birth, but in some milder cases signs may appear later in the childs life. Look for these signs:
- Bloated abdomen
- Constipation (specifically in the first 48 hours of life)
Children (milder cases)
- Constipation that gets worse over time
- Loss of appetite
- Delayed growth
- Small Watery stool
*It can be a genetic case, whereas if someone in the family has had digestive abnormalities (specifically the mother) a child is at higher risk. It is also known that children with downs syndrome also are at greater risk including boys.
Hirschprung disease should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible to prevent further escalation of the problem. If Hirschprung is left untreated the child may develop diseases such as Enterocolitis become life threatning, such as the development of a toxic megacolon.
*The information in this article and elsewhere on this site is for educational purposes only and must not be substituted for diagnosis or treatment of any kind. I’m NOT a medical physician and would always recommend you visit your doctor if you have any serious cause for concern.