Constipation, defined as three or fewer bowel movements per week and/or hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass, affects both adults and children. It is considered the leading abdominal complaint among children and accounts for a significant number of visits to the pediatrician. As a parent, it can be troublesome for you and deleterious for your children if left untreated. Treatment involves the use of laxatives, which are generally intended for short-term or occasional use. However, Miralax has been prescribed as a treatment for chronic constipation in children.
Miralax is the brand name for the drug polyethylene glycol 3350--aka PEG 3350. An osmotic laxative, it exerts its effect by blocking the loss of water from the stool. The retention of water in the large bowel results in softer stools, more frequent bowel movements and less straining with defecation. Studies like those mentioned in the May 2009 issue of the Canadian Family Physician show Miralax as a proven, effective treatment for constipation. It is a grit-free, odorless, tasteless powder, which makes it easier to mask its presence in liquid. These characteristics make Miralax more palatable and acceptable to children, as well as a popular treatment option for physicians.
Safety of Miralax
According to the article in Canadian Family Physicians, a number of studies have shown that Miralax can be safely used in children for short-term or long-term treatment of constipation without long-term complications or significant clinical adverse effects.
In one of the studies, 83 children received the active ingredient in Miralax for a time period ranging from 3 months to two and a half years. Bloodwork collected periodically during the study revealed normal lab values for indices that assessed kidney function, liver function and electrolyte levels. Some participants had high levels of liver enzymes, which later resolved without any lasting adverse consequences. Another study that included 39 participants had similar overall results.
Age and Duration of Use
Children as young as 2 years old can use Miralax as a long-term treatment for constipation, but should only use it under the direct supervision of their pediatrician. It has been shown to be effective for use up to two and a half years. Discontinue its use once your child regularly experiences one to two bowel movements a day.
Side Effects of Miralax
Common side effects associated with the use of Miralax in children include gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. They are mild and may be limited by using the lowest effective dose to treat your child's constipation. Studies showed that these side effects did not affect compliance of Miralax, nor did they discourage its future use by children.
Warnings and Recommendations
Don't use Miralax for more than seven days without first consulting your physician. Chronic constipation in your child should be evaluated by his pediatrician to rule out serious underlying causes that may require more intensive treatment. It may also lead to fecal impaction, which is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. For better results with Miralax, add behavioral changes like increasing water intake, dietary fiber--fruits, vegetables and whole grains--and avoid resisting the urge to defecate.