Constipation and Soiling

Constipation is the most common bowel problem in children and is the term used to describe when there is difficulty in emptying the bowels regularly or to be unable to completely empty the bowel. It is usually associated with hardened faeces or soiling (stools, poos or motions), it can start at any age and can effect up to 30% of all children. Constipation is very common among toddlers.

Your Healthy Family Team can support you in identifying and managing constipation and soiling in children and young people.  We can also work with colleagues in nurseries and schools to help your child whilst they are there.

Constipation is a condition that can be very uncomfortable and distressing for a child and difficult for families to deal with.  You may both find the situation stressful, but staying calm and relaxed is the best attitude to help your child deal with the problem. Being constipated and soiling clothes isn’t something your child is doing on purpose.

Guidance and helpful information

Here are some things you can do at home to help your child with constipation:

  1. Is your child drinking enough? Children should try to drink six to eight glasses of water-based drinks per day (one glass is approximately 250ml). They need enough fluids to keep their bowel movements soft and regular
  2. Do they have enough fibre in their diet? Eating enough fibre is very important in ensuring your child’s bowels stay comfortable and they are able to go to the toilet easily. This means eating five portions of fruit or vegetables per day. Find more information on how to include more fibre in your child’s diet.
  3. Are they getting enough physical activity?
  4. Are they comfortable sitting on the toilet and sitting there long enough? Does he/she need a child’s toilet seat and a stool to feel safe?
  5. Are they afraid to sit on the toilet or to have a poo/are they trying to hold it in? It could be that they have had a painful toileting experience in the past
  6. Get your child into a routine of sitting on the potty or toilet, after meals or before bed, and praise them whether or not they poo.

If you think your child is constipated, or as a young person feel you may be constipated, please seek advice and support either from your health visitor or GP.

Please also take a look at the website links to the right for advice and helpful suggestions about how to manage constipation and other issues around toileting.

How your Healthy Family Team can help

We can give you help and advice about both treating and preventing constipation in your child. This will involve an assessment appointment and support with good toileting routines and fluid intake. Further treatment may involve the use of Movicol which is the recommended medication for childhood constipation (NICE guidance).

What happens next?

If your child has one of the problems detailed above, you should initially speak to your school nurse or health visitor to assess if they can assist your child with their symptoms.

Find details of your Healthy Family Team in the list to the right.