What is Constipation?

Constipation occurs when there are infrequent bowel movements or hard, dry stool. Most constipation is temporary and is common in children.

What are the causes?

  • Withholding – your child may be afraid of the toilet or choose to continue playing rather than having a bowel movement. Painful bowel movements may lead to withholding as well because your child may be afraid to reapeat a painful process
  • Early toilet training – if you begin toilet training too early your child may rebel by holding in stool
  • Changes in diet – lack of fruits, vegetables and water in the diet can cause constipation
  • Changes in routine – weather or traveling can cause constipation
  • Medication or illness
  • Cow’s milk allergy or drinking too much cow’s milk
  • Family history – genetic or environmental factors can make your child more like to have constipation
  • Medical condition or underlying problem

Treatments for Constipation:

  • Over-the-counter fiber supplements or stool softeners
  • Laxative or enema (do not attempt this without consulting your doctor first)
  • Surgery (only if the constipation is caused by lack of contractions in the colon, Hirschsprung's disease or spinal cord abnormalities)

What can I do?

  • Encourage a high fiber diet and plenty of fluids to soften the stool
  • Give your child plenty of time to have a bowel movement. Have your child sit on the toilet for 10 to 30 minutes following a meal. Continue this routine daily - even on vacations and holidays.
  • Call your doctor if your child’s constipation lasts more than two weeks or occurs with:
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Painful cracks in the skin around the anus
  • Intestine dropping out of the anus


It is important to remember the health information found on this Web site is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your health care provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a true medical emergency, call 911 immediately.


  • No bowel movements for several days
  • Bowel movements that are hard, dry or difficult to pass
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Liquid or clay-like stool in your child’s underwear – this is a sign that stool is backed up in the rectum
  • Bright red blood on hard stool
  • Poor appetite
  • Cranky behavior


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