is common in childhood, particularly when children are being potty trained at
around two to three years old. This advice is aimed at children after weaning
(older than 6 months old).
These can be tricky to spot. Your child may be constipated if:
If your child is potty trained, soiled pants can be another sign of constipation, because runny poo (diarrhoea) may leak out around the hard, constipated poo. This is called overflow soiling.
If your child is constipated, they may find it painful to poo. This can create a cycle: the more it hurts, the more they hold on to poo. The more constipated they get, the more it hurts, and so on. Even if pooing isn't painful, once your child is really constipated, they may try to avoid going to the toilet altogether.
Your child may be constipated because they:
Find out about other causes of constipation in children.
In general, children only need treatment for constipation if it is causing them pain or problems (such as soiling in school).
If your child is experiencing significant pain or regularly soiling their pants, despite being on treatment, you should take them back to see your GP. Some children need more intensive treatment of their constipation. Your GP may decide that a paediatrician needs to be involved in their care.
Not all tummy pain is due to constipation - if your baby/child develops new severe tummy ache, please click here for advice about what to do.
Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999
What if your child’s constipation continues despite changing their diet?
If your child remains constipated despite the options listed above, take them to their GP who can decide if they need medicines. The treatment for constipation depends on your child’s age. The longer your child is constipated, the longer it can take to get back to normal, so do get help early from your GP.
Laxatives often help children, alongside diet and lifestyle changes. Movicol is most commonly used as a stool softener, with stimulants such as senna added in if no improvement. For a significant blockage: disimpaction with Movicol is initially with 2 sachets a day for children under 5 years of age (with 60ml water per sachet) increasing by 2 sachets a day (max 8/day) until stools watery and clear/brown then halve dose then reduce by 1 sachet a week to a regular dose (maintenance) that helps keep the stools soft. Spacing out the doses through the day, and mixing squash or juice or keeping the dose cold in the fridge may help taste.
Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111
try to stay calm
Getting constipated and
soiling their clothes isn't something your child is doing on purpose, so please
be patient. You may both find the situation stressful, but staying positive and
relaxed is the best attitude to help your child, and praising positive steps is
about changes to your child’s diet
Make sure that children drink plenty of fluids and encourage them to eat fruit.
Chop or purée it if it's easier for them to eat. The best fruits for
constipation include apples, grapes, pears and strawberries.
your child is potty training,
they may be feeling anxious or stressed about using the toilet. This can cause
them to hold in poo and leads to constipation. Give your child plenty of time
(5minutes) to use the toilet while they are still learning. Encourage them when
they do use the toilet. Some parents find a reward chart works. Your health
visitor can also provide advice and support.
Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111
How to prevent your child getting constipated
For more information and support:
Click here to hear Dr Mark Tighe (consultant paediatrician) talking about managing constipation in children.
This guidance is written by healthcare professionals from across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.