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 Medical Self-Care: Childhood Constipation 
 
Constipation is when you can’t pass solid waste, or stool. (Passing stool is also called “having a bowel movement.”) Constipation is not usually serious. Here are some reasons for constipation:
  • Your child has the flu or some other sickness. He or she isn’t getting enough water.
  • Your child has a bad diaper rash. He or she is holding in the bowel movement.
  • Your child has a tear in the rectum. He or she is holding in the bowel movement.
  • You are toilet training your child. He or she is holding in the bowel movement.

Sometimes a child won’t have a bowel movement for many days. They may start getting stains in their underpants. This is called “soiling.” It is a sign of a bigger problem. Take your child to the doctor if they are soiling their underpants without passing stool.

Help your child by making it easier for them. You can help make their stool softer so they can pass it. (See the Self-Care Tips on page 26 in this section.) Don’t give your child a laxative unless the doctor tells you to. (Laxatives are medicines for constipation.) Your child doesn’t have to pass stool every day. It is OK for them to skip a bowel movement once in a while.

Questions to Ask

Does your child have any of these problems?

  • Blood in the stool
  • A crack or tear in the rectum (the opening where stool comes out)
  • Pain when they have a bowel movement
  • Throwing up
Yes:See Doctor
No
Is your baby less than 2 weeks old?Yes:See Doctor
No
Has your child:
  • Gone for more than 4 days without having a bowel movement?
  • Been constipated for more than 4 weeks?
  • Been constipated since he or she was born?
  • Had constipation 3 or more times without the flu or any other sickness?
Yes:Call Doctor
No
Is your child leaking and “soiling” their clothes?Yes:Call Doctor
No
Self-Care

Self-Care Tips

  • Give your child lots of water and other things to drink. (This is very important when the weather is hot.)
  • Give your child prune juice.
  • Feed your child foods with fiber:
    • Babies 6 months old and older can have whole wheat baby cereal.
    • Older children can eat fruit, vegetables, and whole wheat breads and cereals.
  • Try giving your baby light Karo syrup. (You can get it at the grocery store.) Here’s how to give it to your baby:
    • Put 1 tablespoon of syrup in 4 ounces of water.

      OR

    • Put 1/2 teaspoon of syrup in 4 ounces of formula.

Note: You may have to give your child an over-the-counter medicine. Be sure to check with the doctor first. Some medicines are:

  • Glycerin Suppositories
  • Laxatives like Colace or Metamucil
  • Mineral oil (Don’t give mineral oil to a child under 3 years old.)
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