Constipation in children
Constipation in children
Constipation in children is a common problem. Constipation in children is often characterized by infrequent bowel movements or hard, dry stools.
Various factors can lead to constipation in children. Common causes include early toilet training and changes in diet. Fortunately, most cases of constipation in children are temporary. Encouraging your child to make simple dietary changes — such as eating more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and drinking more fluids — can go a long way toward alleviating constipation. If your child's doctor approves, sometimes constipation in children can also be treated with laxatives.
Signs and symptoms of constipation in children may include:
If your child fears that having a bowel movement will hurt, he or she may try to avoid it. You may notice your child crossing his or her legs, clenching his or her buttocks, twisting his or her body, or making faces during these maneuvers.
When to see a doctor
Constipation most commonly occurs when waste or stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, causing the stool to become hard and dry.
Many factors can contribute to constipation in children, including:
Constipation in children is more likely for kids who:
In addition, constipation is slightly more common in boys than in girls.
Although constipation in children can be uncomfortable, it usually isn't serious. If constipation becomes chronic, however, complications may include:
Preparing for your appointment
If your child's constipation lasts longer than two weeks, you'll likely first seek medical care from your child's doctor. If necessary, the doctor may refer your child to a specialist in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your child's doctor may be limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time together. For constipation in children, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Your child's doctor will:
More extensive testing is usually reserved for only the most severe cases of constipation. If necessary, these tests may include:
Treatments and drugs
Depending on the circumstances, your child's doctor may recommend:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Often, simple changes in diet and routine help relieve constipation in children:
In addition to changes in diet and routine, various alternative approaches may help relieve constipation in children:
To help prevent constipation in children:
Last Updated: 2011-08-31
© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Terms and conditions of use