Hemorrhoids are an uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing medical condition that most of us think is more likely to affect the elderly. However that doesn’t mean we should rule it out at an earlier age, and that includes in children who can also suffer from hemorrhoids and who might find the experience particularly traumatizing and upsetting.
Although hemorrhoids are most common after age 30, some children experience these enlarged, bulging blood vessels located in and around the anus and lower rectum. Hemorrhoids often cause bleeding during bowel movements, as well as itching, sensitivity or pain around the anus. A child with hemorrhoids might see blood on the toilet paper after a bowel movement. In most cases, at-home remedies can treat hemorrhoids, but severe hemorrhoids require medical attention in a doctor’s office.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
External hemorrhoids, also known as piles, occur when the hemorrhoids (healthy vascular structures around the anus) become swollen or inflated resulting in red bulges protruding from the skin. This then causes blood (red) in the stool, itching and discomfort and difficulty when straining.
What Causes Hemorrhoids in Children?
There are many things that can cause hemorrhoids in children. Examples include:
- Sitting on a hard surface. Children often sit for long periods of time on hard wooden chairs.
- Sitting on the toilet for a long time.
- Straining when passing stool usually due to constipation and digestive problems.
Sitting on hard surfaces for instance is associated with the onset of piles, and this is something that can be a problem for children who spend long periods sitting on wooden stools in their classroom. It’s also a problem for children who spend long times on the toilet or on the potty. Children are also somewhat more likely to suffer from constipation and digestive problems as a result of a poor diet. This then causes them to strain more when passing stool which can result in piles. To help your children avoid hemorrhoids then, make sure that they stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. At the same time you should increase their intake of fiber and vegetables. Giving them whole grain bread and a healthier cereal can be great ways to easily improve their diet and make their stool easier to pass.
To help your children with sitting for long periods of time, suggest that they sit on their jumper at school, and monitor their toilet habits to ensure they aren’t spending too long in there. You should also ensure that when they are at home with you, that they aren’t only engaging in sedentary activities – encourage them to go outside and play.
Most of the time, treatment for hemorrhoids can be done at home and include:
- Over the counter corticosteroid creams
- Hemorrhoid creams with lidocaine to help reduce pain
- Witch hazel
- Wearing cotton underwear
- Avoid toilet tissue with perfumes or colors
- Sitz baths
If you find your child is suffering from piles then there are several treatment options available to you. First of all, ensure that they understand the nature of the problem and that they know not to try and ‘force’ their toilet habits. Encourage them to avoid sitting down more than necessary and give them something soft to sit on when they do.
Meanwhile you should improve their diet in the ways described above – by giving them lots of fruit and fiber and ensuring they drink a lot of water. The most painful part for them will be wiping after they have used the toilet so encourage them through this and suggest washing in the bath or with the shower attachment – make sure that hygiene doesn’t suffer.
You should also help them to cope by medicating and addressing any discomfort. The use of analgesics may help, and particularly soothing creams and steroid creams for their anus which can help to ease the discomfort. Normally the piles will go away on their own after a short period of time depending on how bad they are. If they do not then there are a range of surgical options that can be used to remove the hemorrhoids such as ‘rubber band ligation’ in which a band is attached to the top of the hemorrhoid in order to starve it of blood and oxygen and cause it to disappear. These methods have mixed levels of discomfort and success, and some may result in scarring, so try to manage the symptoms first and consult your family doctor on the best course of action.
Have your child take a daily warm bath, washing the anal area with warm water. Soap can irritate the hemorrhoids. Dry with a hair dryer.
Help your child soak the anal area in plain warm water for 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day. Dry the area with a hair dryer.
Instruct your child, or help him, wipe the anal area with plain, unscented, moist towelettes, baby wipes or wet toilet paper after a bowel movement.
Ice the anus with a cold compresses, and give the appropriate child’s dose of acetaminophen to relieve pain.
Ask your child’s doctor about using an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream on the affected area, and follow the doctor’s instructions for use.
Constipation and straining during bowel movements raise your risk for hemorrhoids. To prevent constipation and hemorrhoids:
- Drink plenty of fluids like water
- Eat a high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Use stool softeners to prevent straining
- Monitor toilet training.
- Children need to play outside and get plenty of fresh air.
Often, a diet lacking in fiber is too blame for hemorrhoids. If your child has frequent constipation, strains during bowel movements or spends long periods on the toilet, diet is the likely culprit. Add more foods high in fiber in the child’s diet, such as fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals. Ensure that your child drinks eight glasses of water a day. Remind your child to use the restroom as soon as he feels a bowel movement coming. Waiting to use the bathroom makes hemorrhoids worse.
For bleeding and pain that doesn’t stop, a minimally invasive procedure may be necessary.