February 21, 2018

Ask the Doc – Constipation, Diarrhea and “Poo Accidents” in Children

Rami Arrouk, MD, a pediatric gastroenterology specialist with Mission Children’s Hospital, addresses some common digestive health-related issues for children.

Q: My child has a lot of “poo accidents.” Should I be worried?

A: You should bring up this issue with your pediatrician. “Poo accidents,” or fecal incontinence, happen for various reasons. The most common reason is constipation, which your pediatrician can treat with simple and safe medications. The sooner this treatment is started, the quicker your child will stop having those accidents. I recommend watching with your child an excellent 5-minute YouTube video “The Poo in You” that explains why and how these accidents happen.

Q: My daughter strains for 10-20 minutes, screams, cries and turns red or purple in the face with each effort to defecate, and her bowel movements are soft and occur 2-3 times daily. Is she constipated?

A: You may want to ask your pediatrician if she has infant dyschezia, which occurs in some otherwise healthy infants under 9 months of age, as they learn to coordinate these muscles when using the bathroom. This usually resolves in 3-4 weeks. No treatment is necessary as long as her bowel movements remain soft with no blood.

Q: My 2-year-old son has been having watery diarrhea, 6-7 times a day, for the last 6 months. His stool tested normal and he’s growing well. Why is he having this diarrhea?

A: You may want to ask your pediatrician if he thinks your son has functional diarrhea (previously called toddler’s diarrhea). It’s a common condition that occurs in about 7 percent of children ages 1-3 years old.


Rami Arrouk, MD, is a pediatric gastroenterology specialist with Mission Children’s Hospital.

To learn more about the specialty services provided at Mission Children’s Hospital or to find a Mission pediatrician near you, visit missionchildrens.org.

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