Treatment of Chronic Constipation in Children

Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Chronic constipation, or infrequent and/or hard bowel movements that last more than a few days, can be a frustrating and uncomfortable problem. Sometimes it can also lead to soiling of the underwear, something called encopresis. There are many things that can cause chronic constipation; some children are simply more prone to constipation, but even children who usually have normal bowel movements can develop chronic constipation after an illness, during toilet training, when they have a fissure or other skin condition around the anus, or when there is a life change (such as starting a new school).

There are also medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, that can cause chronic constipation. So if there isn't a clear explanation for your child's constipation, if your child is having other symptoms such as frequent abdominal pain, fever, low energy, or vomiting -- or if the constipation has been going on for a long period of time (more than a month or two), you should call your doctor before using this guide. Remember that this guide is not meant to take the place of a visit to your doctor's office.

The treatment of chronic constipation involves clearing the bowel of the large amount of hard stool, preventing the return of constipation, and teaching normal bowel habits. This may involve medications in addition to changes in diet and toileting behavior.

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Medical Reviewer: Faculty of Harvard Medical School Last Annual Review Date: 2006-10-16T00:00:00-06:00

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