Soiling is when a child regularly poos their pants. If they're already potty-trained, the soiling is usually because they are badly constipated. Treatment from a GP can help.
Causes of soiling
You may feel angry or frustrated when your child keeps pooing their pants (soiling). But they are not doing it on purpose and may not even realise it's happening.
Soiling usually happens when a child is so constipated that a large, hard piece of poo becomes stuck at the end of their gut (rectum).
Fresh poo from higher up the gut then runs around the hard poo and leaks out, staining their pants.
Signs your child is badly constipated
If your child is constipated, they may have:
- runny poo (you may mistake this for diarrhoea) or bits of hard poo appearing regularly in their pants
- pain when they poo – they may try to hold in their poos because of this
- some bleeding during or after pooing, because their poo is large and hard
- stomach pain that comes and goes
- a poor appetite or stomach pain that improves after they poo
- big, hard poos, or small poos like "rabbit droppings"
- fewer than 3 poos a week
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your child is regularly pooing their pants (soiling)
It's important not to try to sort out soiling by yourself.
Treatment for soiling from a GP
If your child is pooing their pants (soiling) because they're constipated, a GP can prescribe laxatives to clear out the hard poo and get your child pooing regularly and comfortably again.
This can take a few months to work. The GP will want to see your child regularly to check how they are doing.
The soiling may get worse before it gets better.
A GP may refer your child to a specialist for treatment if they think soiling could be caused by another medical condition.
Things you can do at home to help with soiling
If your child is regularly pooing their pants (soiling), it can help to:
- set up a regular toilet routine for your child – for example, they could sit on the toilet for 5 minutes every day after each meal and before going to bed
- be positive and encouraging – you could use a star chart to reward your child for sitting on the toilet (whether or not they do a poo), or leave some toys or books next to the toilet
- encourage your child to go to the toilet as soon as they get the urge to during the day
- make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids and has enough fibre in their diet
- encourage your child to be physically active
Page last reviewed: 22 November 2023
Next review due: 22 November 2026