Constipation in children

Journal Article


Journal Title

South African Family Practice

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

South African Academy of Family Physicians


University of Cape Town

Constipation in children is a universal problem, occurring in 0.7-28% of the population. The exact aetiology is unknown, but the majority of children have a functional, rather than organic, aetiology. Symptoms associated with constipation include abdominal pain, a poor appetite and faecal incontinence, all of which interfere with the quality of life of the child and his or her family. Early intervention with appropriate management is necessary to prevent ongoing sequelae. Once an organic cause has been excluded, a programme of intervention should be implemented, namely evacuation of any faecal mass present, followed by regular maintenance therapy to encourage evacuation of a daily soft stool for at least 2-3 months, prior to gradual withdrawal. Emotional support, exercise and dietary modification are linked to the therapy and will ensure a successful outcome. Failure to implement the protocol may result in ongoing problems in up to 50% of children as they enter adulthood.