Gastroenterology clinic

Constipation in infants and children

Taya Dowling, Scott Nightingale



Constipation is a common problem in children and is usually functional, related to stool-withholding. Successful management requires parent education, behavioural strategies, laxative agents (often long term) and ongoing review.

Article Extract

  • Constipation is a common paediatric presentation in general practice.
  • Constipation is defined based on the frequency of stooling (which varies widely depending on the age of the child), and more importantly the consistency, size and difficulty with which stools are passed.
  • Constipation arising beyond the neonatal period is most often functional (i.e. does not result from any identifiable organic pathology), and may be perpetuated by voluntary withholding of stool to avoid painful defaecation.
  • There are several ‘red flags’ that should prompt further investigation for a contributing medical or surgical condition, but these are uncommon.