Most people today associate hemorrhoids with older adults, particularly obese men. Many parents don’t realize that hemorrhoids in children can be fairly common. So what should you do if you believe your child has hemorrhoids?
In this article, we will discuss the causes, treatments, and ways to prevent hemorrhoids in children. First, let’s discuss what hemorrhoids actually are.
A hemorrhoid, or pile, is a swollen vein in the anus or rectum. While there are many causes of hemorrhoids for adults that don’t pertain to children like pregnancy, lifting heavy objects, and aging, there are some common factors that cause hemorrhoids in children.
Hemorrhoids in Children: Causes
1. Constipation or Diarrhea
The primary causes of hemorrhoids are similar for children and adults. In children, the main causes of hemorrhoids is an initial period of illness that includes diarrhea, constipation, or infection. Stomach flu and stomach viruses can often produce quite a bit of irritation in and around the anal area. Even once the illness itself has resolved, this tenderness can remain and grow worse.
2. Extended Periods Of Sitting
Another common cause of hemorrhoids for children is extended periods of sitting, especially when they are sitting on a hard surface (such as a desk chair or a toilet seat). The hard surface can put pressure on the sensitive blood vessels and tissues of the anus and lead to swelling and rupture.
3. Excessive Straining During Bowel Movements
Children can also develop hemorrhoids when they strain to produce a bowel movement. This straining could be caused by a lack of dietary fiber, being overweight, or improper bathroom posture. Eating a diet low in fiber or simply eating too much can cause difficulty with producing regular bowel movements, which will result in straining to use the bathroom.
When straining occurs, it puts a great deal of pressure on the anal tissues and blood vessels, which can cause them to swell, rupture, or even extend outside the anus opening in what is known as a “prolapse.” From here, further attempts to use the bathroom will aggravate and irritate the already tender tissues until hemorrhoids develop.
4. Stress Around Using The Bathroom
Finally, a child that is stressed out to use the bathroom is more likely to develop hemorrhoids because they don’t want to go, thus holding it in for long periods of time. This behavior can occur if they have been shamed or made to feel embarrassed during potty training and the years after.
Hemorrhoids in Children: Treatment
Of course, it can be more challenging to detect a developing case of hemorrhoids in children than in an adult.
This is particularly true because children may not yet have the necessary verbal skills to describe what they are feeling or even realize that what they are experiencing is not normal. For this reason, parents are advised to monitor their child’s bathroom habits closely.
One common sign that a child may have developed hemorrhoids is when that child starts to avoid going to the bathroom. They may say they don’t have to go or simply refuse to go. Often, this is because trying to produce a bowel movement is causing them pain.
Since a very young child may not know how to express this, it can be helpful to ask them specifically if they are feeling any pain or itching in the anal area. It is also a good idea to examine any stool that is produced for signs of bleeding (bright red blood indicates possible hemorrhoids while dark red blood is an indication of bleeding further up in the body). Very hard or compact stool can be a sign of constipation, which can cause hemorrhoids.
Watching to see if the child itches or pulls at their underwear or diapers can also be a sign of discomfort due to hemorrhoids. Taking time to examine the anal area after baths may yield information about whether hemorrhoids may be present, especially if any protrusions are visible outside of the anal opening.
Once the signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids have presented themselves, it is time to take the child to a pediatrician for a full exam, diagnosis and treatment, especially if there is blood present in the stool. A pediatrician will know how to treat hemorrhoids in children to provide immediate pain relief as well as longer-term recovery and prevention.
They should determine the root cause of the hemorrhoids, which will be important to know what treatment to provide beyond just relieving symptoms. From here, possible treatment options may be offered as follows:
1. Dietary fiber
If your child has developed hemorrhoids, it is very likely they could be constipated. One way to address this issue would be to increase their dietary fiber. The table below, taken from the National Academies Press, shows the amount of fiber needed compared to the actual amounts consumed in different age groups of children.
Age Adequate Intake(g/d) Actual Intake(g/d)
1-3 19 5-12
4-8 25 6-18
9-13 26-31 9-11
2. Warm water baths
Soaking the anal area in a warm water bath two to three times daily using only warm water to wash the area can help ease the pain. Do not use soap as this can irritate. Blow dry the area with a hair dryer on the warm setting as moisture that is expected to air dry will cause additional irritation.
3. Using Witch Hazel Wipes
Witch Hazel is a great topical treatment for hemorrhoids. Use a wipe that contains witch hazel and aloe to clean the anal area and for fast relief. Avoid using dry or wet toilet paper, as this will only aggravate the area more.
4. Apply ice packs
It can be pain relieving to use ice packs (always wrapped in a soft towel or washcloth) to the anal area to ease swelling and inflammation. Apply for 10 minutes at a time throughout the day.
5. Hemorrhoid creams
Sometimes hemorrhoid creams are recommended to help shrink the swelling and ease the discomfort.
However, if the hemorrhoids do not seem to be healing after one to two weeks, be sure to make a follow-up appointment with the pediatrician.
Hemorrhoids in Children: Prevention
It is always best to look at the root cause of the problem so that you can address it and it won’t come back. Anyone who has suffered from hemorrhoids would agree it is not something they would ever want to experience again.
The best prevention methods include:
1. Maintaining optimal health with the inclusion of exercise.
2. Eating enough dietary fiber daily.
3. Staying adequately hydrated daily.
4. Using proper bathroom posture by using a Squatty Potty.
5. Making sure going to the bathroom is not a stressful event. You want to make positive associations when it comes to using the bathroom so they don’t delay a bowel movement.
While children develop hemorrhoids less frequently than adults do, it is vital to be aware that children can also be affected. Usually, hemorrhoids in children are not indicative of something more severe, but it is still advised to seek medical advice immediately from your pediatrician.
Now that you know the causes, treatments, and ways to prevent hemorrhoids from occurring in your children, you can put these to practice to keep them healthy, happy, and pain free.