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A to Z: Constipation

A to Z: Constipation

Constipation means having fewer and harder bowel movements (poops) than usual.

More to Know

Constipation is when:

  • Someone has fewer than three bowel movements in a week.
  • The poop is hard, dry, and very large.
  • It's difficult to poop.

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Constipation is not usually a sign of something serious. Common reasons kids get constipated are:

  • not having enough fluids and fiber in the diet
  • too little exercise
  • not fully emptying the bowel when pooping

People who are constipated might have belly pain and a hard time pooping. They might see a bit of blood on the toilet paper after wiping because straining to pass a hard stool can crack the skin of the anus.

Some kids might get constipated because of changes in routine. They might be worried or stressed about a new situation. For example, kids who start a new school may feel nervous about using a new bathroom. Constipation can also be a side effect of some medicines.

Constipation usually goes away on its own when kids drink enough fluids, eat high-fiber foods, and get enough exercise. Kids should also learn to go to the toilet when they feel the urge and not try to hold in a bowel movement. 

Keep in Mind

Sometimes, bad constipation can be a sign a child has a health problem. Call your doctor if constipation lasts more than a week or a child also has bad belly pain or throws up.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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Date reviewed: September 26, 2016