Constipation means having fewer and harder bowel movements (BMs) than usual.
A person is considered constipated when he or she has fewer than three BMs in a week; when the stool (poop) is hard, dry, and unusually large; or when it's difficult to have a BM.
Constipation is rarely due to a serious condition. Common causes include too little exercise, not completely emptying the bowel during a BM, and not having enough fluids and fiber in the diet. When constipated, someone might have abdominal (belly) pain, difficulty or straining to pass stool, and perhaps a little blood on the toilet paper after a BM because of a crack in the skin of the anus caused by the passage of hard stool.
In some kids, worry about a new situation or changes in routine (such as starting school) can cause stress and make them uncomfortable about using an unfamiliar bathroom, which can lead to constipation.
In a few cases, severe constipation can be a sign of an underlying health problem, such as lead poisoning, an underactive thyroid gland, a side effect of medications, or Hirschprung disease, a birth defect that affects the nerves that control the movement of the lower intestine.
Drinking plenty of water, eating a high-fiber diet, and getting enough exercise usually will help constipation go away on its own. It's also important to go to the toilet whenever the urge arises and not try to hold it.
While fluid, fiber, and fitness can prevent or relieve most cases of constipation, if the condition lasts more than a week or is accompanied by belly pain or vomiting, call your doctor.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|ChooseMyPlate.gov ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information on how to follow the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes resources and tools to help families lead healthier lives.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) NASPGHAN works to help children and adolescents with digestive disorders.|
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|How Can I Tell if My Baby Is Constipated? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Soiling (Encopresis) If your child has bowel movements in places other than the toilet, you know how frustrating it can be. Many kids who soil beyond the years of toilet teaching have a condition known as encopresis.|
|Fiber Some of the best and most delicious foods have loads of fiber. Find out how to get your fill of fiber without sacrificing good taste!|
|Constipation Constipation is a very common problem that usually happens because a person's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. In most cases, making simple changes can help you feel better.|
|Constipation Constipation is a very common problem among kids, and it usually occurs because a child's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. In most cases, simple changes can help kids go.|
|Belly Pain Ugh. Bellyaches. Find out what causes tummy trouble in this article for kids.|
|Word! Constipation Sometimes your bowel movements - you know, the stuff inside your intestines we call poop - might be hard and dry.|
|Word! Fiber Foods with fiber are really good for you and your bowels!|
|Constipation If you aren't pooping like usual, you could be constipated.|
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