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Constipation in Children

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Definition & Facts

Your child may be constipated with fewer than two bowel movements a week; stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy; or stools that are difficult or painful to pass. Your child also may tell you that he or she feels that not all stool has passed.

child sitting on a training toilet

Symptoms & Causes

If your child’s constipation does not go away with at-home treatment, or if your child has had constipation for more than 2 weeks, talk with your child’s doctor.


A doctor may use your child’s medical and family history, a physical exam, or medical tests to find the cause of his or her constipation. You may want track your child’s bowel movements and what his or her stools look like for several days or weeks before the doctor’s visit.


Your child’s doctor may suggest changes to what your child eats and drinks to treat constipation, as well as changing bathroom habits. If these treatments don’t work, your child’s doctor may prescribe a medicine.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

Have your child eat enough fiber to help prevent and treat constipation. Talk with your child’s doctor to plan a diet with the right amount of fiber for your family. Be sure to add fiber to your family’s diet a little at a time so everyone gets used to the change.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

Your Digestive System & How It Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract-also called the digestive tract-and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

Last Reviewed May 2018

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank Carlo Di Lorenzo, M.D., Nationwide Children's Hospital