Constipation & faecal incontinence in children


Constipation is a common problem, occurring in up to 30% of children.  Functional constipation is the most common cause, but it is important to be mindful of the symptoms and signs which could indicate potentially serious underlying conditions. 

Constipation is defined as a delay or difficulty in defecation, present for 2 or more weeks.  Secondary problems associated with constipation and faecal impaction include faecal soiling, anorexia, abdominal pain, behavioural problems and low self-esteem.

Refer to Clinical Practice Guideline. Evaluation and Treatment of Constipation in Infants and Children: Recommendations of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Learning objectives

  • to be able to take an appropriate history regarding constipation
  • to be aware of the necessary features of the physical examination for constipation
  • to know the features of impaction
  • to understand the red flags for constipation that may indicate a serious or organic cause
  • to be aware of the first choice of treatment for disimpaction
  • to be aware of the options for maintenance therapy for chronic constipation
  • to know supportive behaviours in the management of constipation.


Once you have completed this short course and quiz, please click 'submit', where you can print your certificate for 1 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hour.

This course has been endorsed by The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) and by The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) for up to 1CME credit for their General Practice Educational Programme (GPEP) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) purposes, and the College of Nurses Aotearoa (NZ) for PD hours.


This content has been updated by Dr Karen Falloon MBChB, FRNZCGP, PhD. Senior lecturer Goodfellow Unit, in June 2018.


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