By the time a child reaches three to four years of age, he can control his bowels pretty well. Once in a great while, an accident does happen, but that’s not a serious matter. It can happen to a grown-up, too. But it is rather important to develop good bowel habits when young, because habits in childhood often continue on into adulthood. And if a child develops good bowel habits, he will probably maintain them as a teenager and grown-up. Also, if he is careless about his bowels as a child, he may remain that way always.

Good bowel habits are:

1. Try to go to the bathroom at the same time each morning. Many children go after breakfast, while others prefer to go before breakfast. Either is all right, if the bowels function properly.

2. Always leave plenty of time for taking care of the bowels. If a child is late for school, he will hurry and may not perform his duties the way he should. This will lead to poor bowel habits.

3. Don’t sit on the toilet for longer than necessary. Ten to fifteen minutes should be the limit. Some children like to read while on the toilet. When they do that, they frequently forget why they are there. It is perhaps best just to do one’s job and to get on with the day’s activities.

4. Don’t strain too hard if it is difficult to move the bowels.Straining can cause a scratch in the delicate tissues in the anal region. If you can’t do your business, let your mother know, and she will give you a medicine to make it easier for you.

5. If the bowels are too loose, it is also a good idea to let your mother know. She may give you some medicine to correct the condition. Of course, she will notify your doctor if the loose bowels continue for more than a day or two.

6. Make sure to clean yourself thoroughly before leaving the bathroom. The delicate tissues get irritated very easily if they are unclean. And some irritations in the anal area may last for quite some time and cause a great deal of unpleasant itching.

7. Be sure to wash your hands, too, before leaving the bathroom.

8. Tell your mother if it is very painful to move your bowels. Normally, the process shouldn’t be painful. Pain is most often caused by constipation, with very hard stools.

9. Tell your mother if you ever notice blood on the paper. This may mean that there is a scratch in the membranes, or it may mean that there is an inflammation of the large intestines or rectum.

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The body’s system for absorbing nutrients from food and getting rid of solid waste products begins in the mouth and ends in the bowels. To keep the system in good working order, we must develop regular bowel habits.

Children who neglect their bowels and are irregular about the time each day that they go to the bathroom often become constipated. Constipation is nothing to get excited about when it happens once in a while, but if a child always finds it difficult to move his bowels, it is a matter for concern.

A child who is always constipated may not have as much energy and pep as a child who is regular. Furthermore, children who are constipated sometimes don’t have very good appetites, and they may lose valuable weight. The best treatment for constipation is to drink plenty of water and eat those foods which are most likely to lead to regular movements. These foods include fresh fruit and fruit juices like prune juice and orange and grapefruit juice, plenty of fresh vegetables like lettuce and tomatoes and celery and cabbage and string beans, and plenty of cereals and breads. Foods like whole- wheat bread and cereals contain bran, and bran helps to keep the bowels regular.

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Foods that promote regular bowel function are fresh fruits and fruit juices, fresh vegetables. and whole-grain cereals and breads. Wholewheat breads and cereals contain bran, which is very helpful in keeping the bowels regular.

If a child is constipated only occasionally, he may be given a laxative or an enema to clear up the condition. However, it is not a good idea to give a child laxatives or enemas regularly. It is a much better ides for the child to develop good bowel habits. That will solve most problems of constipation it is not natural for youngsters to have loose stools all the time. (Loose stools mean diarrhea.) If they do, it may mean that their diet is poor and needs to be improved. Perhaps they are getting too few vitamins in their diet, or perhaps they are eating foods to which they are allergic. One child once had diarrhea for many weeks until it was discovered that he had unexpectedly become allergic to milk. When he stopped drinking milk, the loose stools disappeared.

In some instances, diarrhea is caused by an infection or inflammation within the small or large intestine. If this is the cause, a doctor will give medicines to control it. Any child who has loose stools for I more than a day or two should not neglect to tell his or her mother. Diarrhea can be cleared up much more quickly if it is treated early.

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