Advice for professionals to be used with parents and carers
Constipation 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.
Spacing out the doses through the day, and mixing squash or juice or keeping the dose cold in the fridge may help taste
It may take several months for the treatments to work, but keep trying until they do. Remember that laxative treatment may make your child's overflow soiling worse for a time
Please ring your GP surgery or contact NHS 111 - dial 111 or for children aged 5 years and above visit 111.nhs.uk
Firstly, 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 important. Please be aware that any medication or treatment will take time to take effect. You may need prolonged treatment which can be weeks or months depending on severity
Think 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
If 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 (anything up to 30minutes) 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
Pharmacists can advise and treat a range of common symptoms. No appointment is needed and most pharmacies have a private consulting area. Click on this link to find a Pharmacy near to you
If you are still concerned about your child, contact NHS 111 – dial 111 or for children aged 5 years and above visit 111.nhs.uk
This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across the Black Country Integrated Care System.
How to prevent your child getting constipated:
For more information and support: