Objectives: To evaluate the prevalence of chronic constipation (CC) in unselected children, its association with atopy and the efficacy of a cow’s milk protein (CMP) elimination diet on refractory constipation.
Study design: The study was conducted by six primary care paediatricians, serving a population of 5113 children aged from birth through to 12 years; only 2068 children were 6 months to 6 years. During a 3-month period, prevalence of CC was determined for the entire study population, ages 0–12 years. In the second part of the study, all patients aged 6 months to 6 years with CC, and age- and sex-matched controls, were evaluated for atopy and its association with CC. A questionnaire was completed including personal and family history of atopy and bowel-movement characteristics. Patients were tested for atopy by specific serum IgE and/or skin-prick tests. Constipated patients, refractory to osmotic laxatives, underwent a 4-week CMP elimination diet.
Results: 91 (1.8%) children had CC, and 69 (3.3%) of the 6 months to 6 years age group fell into the atopy study age range. All 69 constipated children (mean age 34.9 (18.0) months) and 69 controls completed the questionnaire. Twelve of the 69 constipated children (17.3%) and 13 out of the 69 control children (18.8%) had a diagnosis of atopy. Eleven out of 69 (15.9%) constipated children were refractory to constipation treatment, and three (27.3%) of these had atopy. The 4-week trial of dietary elimination did not result in improvement in any of these 11 children.
Conclusions: In our study group, prevalence of atopy among children with CC is similar to that in the general population. The level of refraction of CC does not seem to be related to cow’s milk allergy.
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Competing interests: None declared.
Ethics approval: Informed consent for participation in this study was obtained from the parents, and the investigation was approved by the Ethics Committee of the University of Naples “Federico II”.
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