What is Encopresis?
Encopresis is a condition when a child over the age of 4 has bowel movements in their underwear or in inappropriate places, such as behind a sofa or on the floor. It is a term typically used by health professionals and is commonly referred to as soiling.
Encopresis can be caused by a number of reasons such as problems with bowel function or children resisting their bowel movements. It is a common condition in children with special needs.
Signs of encopresis include having loose watery stools, soiled underwear, involuntary soiling and an irritated anus due to watery stools.
Is Encopresis a sign of abuse?
Although encopresis can be caused by trauma - such as sexual abuse, it is important to remember that it isn’t unusual for children with special needs to have this condition. However, if you have any concerns regarding the safety and wellbeing of your child you should consult your GP immediately.
Can Encopresis be caused by anxiety?
Encopresis in children with special needs for some can be caused by anxiety and a change in social circumstances. For example - some children develop the condition as a result of their anxiety in relation to going to the toilet at school. Others may be triggered by a significant change in their life, such as moving house or their parents splitting up.
Unsurprisingly, encopresis can create anxiety too. Children can become embarrassed and ashamed because of the condition.
If you suspect that anxiety is the cause of your child’s encopresis it is important that you talk to them and explore options that may help.
Treatments and how to help a child with Encopresis?
If you child has encopresis you should consult your GP for advice. If there is an impacted stool, your child might be given an enema to remove it or laxatives. In order to keep your child’s bowel movements soft for several months, they might be prescribed with laxatives.
Your GP might arrange an abdominal x-ray to check how much stool is present in the large intestine. They might also arrange a barium enema. This will check whether there are any blockages or obstructions in the intestine.
Diet and lifestyle changes can also help, such as eating more fruit, vegetables and fibre. Your GP might refer you to a dietician for advice.
If your child’s encopresis has been caused by anxiety or a trauma, a psychologist might be able to help your child overcome it.
It is a good idea to ask your child to practice sitting on the toilet. You could start this by getting them to sit on the toilet after each meal and gradually build the time up that they sit to 5 minutes. Make sure that you are patient and that you don’t get upset if they do not have a bowel movement. Praise your child for the effort that they are making, especially if they have a successful bowel movement. Keeping a log of bowel movements is a good idea in case there is any pattern of when they go.
Special needs products to help with Encopresis
Whilst some children will outgrow encopresis, some children will live with the condition long-term. If your child is living with the condition, we would recommend the following products from our website, that might help.
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