Signs and symptoms of constipation in children may include:
- Less than three bowel movements a week
- Bowel movements that are hard, dry and difficult to pass
- Pain while having a bowel movement
- Abdominal pain
- Traces of liquid or clay-like stool in your child's underwear — a sign that stool is backed up in the rectum
- Blood on the surface of hard stool
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 in children usually isn't serious. However, chronic constipation may lead to complications or signal an underlying condition. Take your child to a doctor if the constipation lasts longer than two weeks or is accompanied by:
Aug. 23, 2013
- Blood in the stool
- Abdominal swelling
- Weight loss
- Painful tears in the skin around the anus (anal fissures)
- Intestinal protrusion out of the anus (rectal prolapse)
- Tabbers MM, et al. Nonpharmacologic treatments for childhood constipation: Systematic review. Pediatrics. 2011;128:753.
- Constipation in children. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipationchild/. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Ferry GD. Constipation in children: Etiology and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Hay WW, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 21st ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=14. Accessed June 12, 2013.
- Constipation in children. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/approach_to_the_care_of_normal_infants_and_children/constipation_in_children.html. Accessed June 12, 2013.
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- Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipation/. Accessed June 10, 2013.
- Young L, et al. Integrative care for pediatric patients with pain. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. In press. Accessed June 13, 2013.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 27, 2013.