Symptoms of constipation 

When you're constipated, passing stools becomes more difficult and less frequent than usual.

Normal bowel habits vary from person to person. Some adults go to the toilet more than once a day, whereas others may only go every three or four days. Similarly, some infants pass stools several times a day, while others only pass them a few times a week.

If you or your child pass stools less than usual, it could be a sign of constipation.

It may also be more difficult to pass stools and you may feel unable to empty your bowel completely. Your stools may appear dry, hard and lumpy, as well as abnormally large or small.

Other symptoms of constipation can include:

Constipation in children

As well as infrequent or irregular bowel movements, a child with constipation may also have any of the following symptoms:

  • loss of appetite
  • a lack of energy
  • being irritable, angry or unhappy
  • foul-smelling wind and stools
  • stomach pain and discomfort
  • soiling their clothes
  • generally feeling unwell

When to see your GP

You may be able to treat constipation yourself by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. However, you should see your GP if these changes don't help.

You should also see your GP for advice if you notice any rectal bleedingunexplained weight loss or persistent tiredness.

Take your child to see your GP if you think they are constipated. Laxatives are often recommended for children alongside diet and lifestyle changes.


Page last reviewed: 24/12/2015

Next review due: 24/12/2017