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When Does a Child's Constipation Require Medical Intervention?

Constipation is a common childhood problem that looks different in different children. About 1 in 20 visits to a pediatrician

Having children means that you often say or do things you may never have thought you would do as an adult. While you probably expected to sleep less, you may not have anticipated having serious or frequent discussions about bowel movements. 

But, sure enough, once you have children, talking about poops, teeth, and sleeping patterns become regular repartee among parents. As we all know, keeping your children happy and healthy is of the utmost importance for parents. Having a constipated child can greatly impact their daily routines and cause them, and you, great strife. 

What is constipation?

Constipation is a common childhood problem that looks different in different children. About 1 in 20 visits to a pediatrician is because of constipation. Constipation is abnormal bowel movements. But every child has a unique “normal.” For example, normal for one child may mean daily, while normal for another may mean three bowel movements a week.

An abnormal bowel movement may mean that your child’s stools are hard and lumpy, which makes them painful to pass. Some children have problems excreting their entire stool. Other children have problems passing stools due to psychological issues, pain, or dietary issues. 

Constipation symptoms

It’s helpful to know the symptoms of constipation so when your child is not feeling well or their behavior changes, you’ll know if constipation may be the culprit. If you notice the following symptoms in your child, you should ask them how often they’re going to the bathroom, or start tracking their bowel movements: 

Your child is considered constipated if you find out they’ve had fewer than three bowel movements in a week. If their symptoms last two weeks or longer, or is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms such as fever, pain during bowel movements, or blood in the stool, it’s time to bring them into the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition for medical intervention. 

Why should you seek medical intervention?

Aside from the fact that your child is in pain and irritable, the longer your child is constipated, the harder the condition is to resolve. Other complications from chronic and long-term constipation include: 

Prevention and treatment options

Fortunately, there are many treatment options for this common childhood condition. After a thorough and gentle examination, one of our experienced board-certified pediatric gastroenterologists will recommend the best and most effective treatment option for your child. Treatment options can include the following. 

Changes in diet

Adding more fiber and water to your child’s diet while reducing other items that don’t have fiber such as chips, some processed foods, and meat can help as well as prevent constipation. 

Behavioral changes

Changing routines or using rewards for bathroom use can help. Or, if you’re potty training your child, you may want to take a break until constipation issues are resolved. 


An enema involves a gentle injection of fluid into your child’s rectum to induce a bowel movement. This procedure helps clean your child’s bowels and can get them or start them on the path of healthy and regular bowel movements. 


An oral laxative can help soften your child’s stool so it can pass more easily. Laxatives should only be used under the direction of your doctor. 

For more information on preventing and treating constipation in your child, call the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, or request an appointment online

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