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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Laxatives for Children?

Autumn Rivers
Updated May 17, 2024
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Parents may offer their children laxatives to relieve constipation, but there are some precautions they should take before doing so. Asking a doctor before offering any gastrointestinal tract medications to kids usually is advised, because it gives one the opportunity to find out the best type of medicine and the best dose to give. A few natural methods may be recommended before medication is suggested, because some of the drawbacks of laxatives for children include side effects and the possibility of a dangerous overdose.

Using laxatives often is considered the most convenient way to reduce the discomfort of constipation. This is because there are many liquids and chewable pills on the market that are flavored to appeal to kids. There also are suppositories that can be taken rectally, which may make it possible for parents to give laxatives to their children when they refuse to swallow medicine. The constipation typically disappears within about an hour, meaning that laxatives for children can solve the issue within minutes and with minimal discomfort. This often can save children from having to make a trip to the doctor, because parents usually can just call the pediatrician to make sure that laxative use is safe for their child.

Some doctors, though, believe that offering natural laxatives for children is the best way to get rid of constipation. There are several types of food that can get rid of this issue, with broccoli, whole wheat bread and fiber-rich cereals frequently being recommended. In addition, extra water, prune juice and apple juice can often help kids pass stools. Many households already contain at least one of these options, so parents often are encouraged to offer their kids these natural laxatives before turning to medication.

One of the main reasons for using natural laxatives for children is that the kind that can be purchased from the store usually is made of chemical ingredients, which typically means an overdose can be dangerous. Some signs of an overdose of laxatives for children include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, all of which can lead to discomfort and dehydration. Even a safe dose can cause side effects such as gas, bloating and irritation of both the rectum and the stomach. The exact side effects of laxatives may vary depending on the type used, so parents are encouraged to ask their children how they are feeling after taking the proper dose for their age and weight.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGEEK, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.

Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On Mar 22, 2013

Don't give your kids laxatives! I give my daughter a spoonful of a spice called sumac in warm water. It relieves her constipation in a few hours. It's completely natural!

By bluedolphin — On Mar 21, 2013

@anamur-- I agree with you. Parents should absolutely avoid giving their children stimulant laxatives.

I myself experienced dependency on these laxatives. I started relying on them to have bowel movements. The same can happen to children, it's dangerous. Plus, laxatives prevent bowels from absorbing nutrients. This can cause growth problems and malnutrition for kids.

By serenesurface — On Mar 20, 2013

I think it's okay to give laxatives to children as long is it doesn't happen often. Also, the type of laxative is important. Like the article said, natural laxatives and suppositories should be preferred.

I give my children prunes, dry apricots and bran when they have constipation. These contain dietary fiber. Fiber draws water into the bowels and encourages a bowel movement.

If these don't work, then I might give them a glycerin suppository.

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGEEK, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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