Leaky Stool (Encopresis) in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Sometimes a child who seems to be toilet-trained leaks stool into his or her pants. This is called encopresis (say "en-koh-PREE-sus"). It can start when a child does not have regular bowel movements and the stool becomes thick and hard to pass (constipation). There are many reasons for this. A child may be nervous about using the toilet (especially in public places, such as school). A child who once had a bowel movement that hurt may try to hold stool in to avoid pain. A child may get constipated if his or her diet does not have enough fibre. Whatever the reason, new stool builds up behind the hard stool, and then some of it escapes. Your child may not be aware that the runny stool comes out until it soils his or her pants.

Once you get rid of the constipation, leaky stool should not be a problem much longer. If the problem continues, your doctor may look for other causes. How often your child has a bowel movement is not as important as whether the child can pass stools easily. Your doctor may suggest that you give your child medicine to help soften the stool. You can take steps at home, such as making diet and activity changes, to end the constipation and leaky stool.

It's an embarrassing problem for children. More so if they are at school. Stay positive. This helps your child stay positive even when progress is slow.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Offer your child lots of high-fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Examples of whole grains include graham crackers, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread.
  • If your doctor prescribes medicine, give it as directed. Be safe with medicines. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems with your child's medicine.
  • Make sure your child does not eat or drink too many dairy products. This includes milk and milk products, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Too much dairy may make stools hard.
  • Make sure your child gets daily exercise. It helps the body stay regular.
  • Dress your child in clothing that is easy for him or her to remove.
  • Help your child feel comfortable and safe on the toilet. But do not force your child to sit on the toilet.
  • Encourage your child to go to the bathroom when he or she has the urge. But do not scold or punish your child for not using the toilet.
  • If your child is afraid of flushing, it is okay for you to flush after he or she leaves the room.
  • Do not give laxatives or enemas to children without first talking to your doctor.

How can you get support for your child at school?

  • Talk to your child's teacher or school counsellor about things to do to support your child. This help can include giving your child permission to go to the washroom at any time.
  • Encourage your child to let the teacher know when he or she has an urge to go the washroom.
  • Send extra clothes to school with your child. Make a plan with your child's teacher about what to do with soiled clothing.

How can your school-age child help?

Self-care helps your child take an active role. And giving your child some control can help improve self-esteem. Help your child learn what he or she can do to help. For example:

  • Your child can take off soiled clothes and put them in the washer.
  • Your child could put a sticker on a chart that tracks the goal of sitting on the toilet every day.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • There is blood in your child's stool.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child has belly pain.
  • Your child's constipation gets worse.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's leaky stool does not stop after the constipation goes away.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 26, 2016