Constipation in children

Constipation is common in childhood, particularly when children are being potty trained at around 2 to 3 years old.

Symptoms of constipation in children

Your child may be constipated if:

If your child is over 1 year old, soiled pants can be another sign of constipation, as runny poo (diarrhoea) may leak out around the hard, constipated poo. This is called overflow soiling.

Causes of constipation in children

Constipation in children has many possible causes. Sometimes there's no obvious reason.

Some of the possible causes include:

If your child is constipated they may find it painful to poo, which may mean they do not want to try to poo. This can create a vicious circle; the more they hold back, the more constipated they get.

How to treat your child's constipation

If you think your child may be constipated, take them to a GP. The treatment for constipation depends on your child's age.

The longer your child is constipated, the more difficult it can be for them to get back to normal, so make sure you get help early.

Laxatives are often recommended for children who are eating solid foods, alongside diet and lifestyle changes.

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 before it gets better.

Once your child's constipation has been dealt with, it's important to stop it coming back. A GP may advise that your child keeps taking laxatives for a while to make sure their poo stays soft enough to push out regularly.

Treating constipation with soiling (children pooing their pants)

Getting constipated and soiling their clothes is not something your child is doing on purpose, so there's no reason to get cross with them.

You may both find the situation stressful, but staying calm and relaxed is the best attitude to help your child deal with the problem.

A health visitor or GP can offer helpful tips.

Read about soiling (children pooing their pants).

How to prevent constipation

If you'd like advice about taking the stress out of going to the toilet for your child, speak to a health visitor.

Find out more advice for children with constipation on ERIC, The Children's Bowel and Bladder Charity website

More information and support

Page last reviewed: 2 August 2023
Next review due: 2 August 2026