Constipation occurs when your child has infrequent bowel movements (fewer than three in a week) or bowel movements that are difficult or painful to pass. It is a very common issue for children, and over time, can cause bloating, cramps, decreased appetite, fear of going to the bathroom, and incontinence.

There are many potential factors that play a role in constipation including diet, mobility, genetics, emotional issues and stress. Many underlying medical conditions and medications can cause constipation as well. Fears around potty training can also be a common cause.

Usually constipation can be treated with diet, habits, behavioral changes, and specific medications such as laxatives (such as Miralax) and stool softeners (such as Colace).

Common questions


What are the signs and symptoms of constipation in children?

Signs and symptoms of constipation in children include having fewer than three bowel movements a week, bowel movements that are hard, dry, and difficult to pass, pain during bowel movements, stomach pain, traces of liquid or pasty stool in the underwear (indicating stool backed up in the rectum), and sometimes blood on the surface of hard stool.

What causes constipation in children?

Common causes of constipation in children include withholding bowel movements, issues related to toilet training, changes in diet (especially during the transition from liquid to solid foods), changes in routine, certain medications, cow's milk allergy, and family history. In rare cases, it can indicate an anatomic malformation or a metabolic or digestive system problem.

How can I treat my child's constipation at home?

To treat constipation at home, encourage your child to eat high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Ensure they drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Promote regular physical activity and establish a routine for toilet use, especially after meals. Avoid punishing a child for soiled underwear as this can exacerbate the problem.

When should I take my child to see a doctor for constipation?

Take your child to a doctor if constipation lasts longer than two weeks or is accompanied by fever, not eating, blood in the stool, abdominal swelling, weight loss, pain during bowel movements, or rectal prolapse (part of the intestine coming out of the anus).

Can constipation in children lead to complications?

While constipation in children usually isn't serious, chronic constipation can lead to complications such as anal fissures (painful breaks in the skin around the anus), rectal prolapse, stool withholding, and encopresis (avoiding bowel movements due to pain, causing impacted stool to collect in the colon and rectum and leak out). Early treatment can help prevent these complications.

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