Caring for a child with
functional constipation

Functional constipation is when children have 2 or more of the following symptoms at least once per week for at least 1 month:

  • 2 or less poops in the toilet per week (after toilet training)
  • 1 or more poop accidents per week
  • Holding in poop
  • Difficulty passing poop or painful poop
  • Very big poops

Things that may contribute to functional constipation:

  • Holding in poop
  • Toilet training issues
  • Changes in routine or diet
functional constipation intro graphic
functional constipation nurse and patient

Diagnosis

Your health care provider can help make sure there is no other cause for the constipation. Your doctor will work with you to make a treatment plan.

Most children do not need special testing or to see specialists to be diagnosed.

Treatment

Treating your child’s functional constipation is important. Most cases of functional constipation do not go away on their own. Treatment prevents symptoms from getting worse and helps avoid more serious complications.

Most families will need to consider some of the following:

Medication

Safe medications for functional constipation draw water into the colon to make poop softer.

Children almost always need to take medicine for longer than they feel constipated – meaning treatment may last for months or even years to prevent symptoms from returning.

Accidents

Accidents are common in children with functional constipation.

When poop stays inside the colon for too long, it becomes hard and dry.  Muscles of the colon can also become too stretched, making it harder to move poop out of the body. Liquid poop can pass around the hard poop and leak into underwear.  Always having poop inside the colon can make it hard for children to recognize when they need to poop.

functional constipation information

What to do

Functional constipation causes many problems for families and without treatment, it can lead to chronic constipation and other complications.

Take your child to a doctor if the constipation lasts more than 2 weeks OR is accompanied by any of the following:

  • Blood in poop,
  • Part of the intestine coming out of the
    bum (prolapse),
  • Stomach swelling,
  • Fever,
  • Not eating

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This infographic was brought to you by ECHO & ARCHE

© ECHO Research and ARCHE, 2020. This resource may not be modified, reproduced or distributed without prior written consent of ECHO Research and ARCHE. Contact shannon.scott@ualberta.ca

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research