In Vietnam, many children have constipation as they dread using schools’ filthy toilets.
Many students refuse to use restrooms in their schools as these places are dirty, far away, and have no hand sanitizers or soap.
As a result, they suffer from constipation.
Constipation is alarming among both children and adults, affecting their physical and mental health.
The situation is even worse in urban areas.
Fear of dirty toilets
V.B., a seven-year-old child in Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City, is receiving constipation treatment at Children's Hospital 2.
The child’s mother said that she immediately rushed her child to the hospital when her son was suffering from a severe stomachache.
At the hospital, doctors said he was seriously constipated and had to be hospitalized for treatment.
“After school, he often hurriedly runs into the toilet at home. Being asked why he did not use the school restroom, he said it was dirty and smelly," the mother recounted.
“Despite my repeated advice, he is still afraid of the mucky toilet and dreads using it.”
Similarly, T., residing in Thu Duc City, a district-level unit in Ho Chi Minh City, whose child is an elementary student, said she was anxious as her daughter complained about the unclean school toilet and the lack of hand sanitizers as well.
“Toilets are home to multiple kinds of bacteria, posing a high risk of diseases. I bought a bottle of hand sanitizer and instructed my daughter to use it," T. said.
“During parent-teacher meetings, I have suggested repairing the toilet.
"Other parents have also agreed to pay for the repair but the school toilet has been unchanged over the past few years.
“The toilet has no doors, so female students do not dare to use it."
Doctor Ha Van Thieu, acting head of the gastroenterology ward at Children’s Hospital 2, said constipation cases are on the rise.
Up to 90 percent of the hospitalized children at the hospital suffer from non-surgical constipation. They just need to use medicines and change their dietary habits.
Most of these children said that toilets in their schools have odors and are filthy and not private, so they, especially girls, avoid using them by drinking little water.
As a result, many of them have been constipated. Without prompt treatment, their health will worsen.
Doctor Thieu said constipation is a common condition among children worldwide. The condition is more common among children aged two and older.
Constipated children often have fewer than two bowel movements per week. In addition, bowel movements are hard, while their urine is dark.
“The number of constipated patients is increasing due to people's laziness and failure to drink enough water and eat enough high-fiber food. Stress in adults is also a cause for constipation," Dr. Thieu said
“Constipation leads to many consequences, such as piles, anal fissures, proctocele, and atrabiliar, affecting patients’ daily life."
According to the doctor, school toilets should be upgraded to be clean, private, and safe for children.
Signs reminding children to drink enough water and washing their hands after going to the toilet should be hung inside restrooms.
In day boarding schools, teachers must remind students to go to the toilet.
As recommended by scientists, the best time to answer the call of nature is in the morning and 15-20 minutes after dinner.
In addition, parents should ask their children to drink enough water, eat enough high-fiber food, and have a habit of going to the john daily to ensure daily excretion.
According to Le Van Hiep, chairman of the Vietnam Toilet Association, in many schools, toilets are designed in line with old standards. They cover a small area and have inappropriately designed equipment.
Toilets have some 500 kinds of bacteria. If they are dank and unclean, bacteria will easily multiply.
“Due to fear of dirty toilets, children will refrain from drinking water at school and going to the toilet, resulting in constipation, especially girls," Hiep noted.
“Moreover, children may catch diarrhea and hand, foot, and mouth disease and must be hospitalized, possibly straining the medical system and requiring their parents to take care of them.
"Their families’ economic conditions may get worse.”
He added that associations, schools, and enterprises need to join hands to improve school toilets and build the restrooms as per new standards so that students can focus on studying.
Solutions to prevent constipation
According to Dr. Thieu, constipation is treated by adjusting diets, specifically providing enough water and fibrous matter, and the habit of going to the toilet as well as providing laxatives.
In addition, toilets should be designed appropriately to the age of children who should not sit upright and at a 90-degree angle but lean forward into a 35-degree angle instead.
A small chair should be put under children’s feet. While using the toilet, children must not be allowed to use electronic devices.
Doctor Nguyen Tran Nhu Thuy from the University Medical Center in Ho Chi Minh City, said fresh vegetables are rich in water and fibrous matter, facilitating digestion and preventing constipation.
Broccoli, bean sprouts, basella alba, and lettuce contain many vitamins and minerals, which help protect eyes, prevent cancer, and minimize constipation.