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Child has constipation, taken polyethylene glycol. Is PegLax safe for a child?

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Gastroenterologist, Surgical
Practicing since : 1989
Answered : 883 Questions
Hi. My name is XXXXXXX My granddaughter is 5 years old and has constipation all the time; sometimes to the point that it is painful for her to have a bowel movement. She seems to be getting better but is still not going everyday. I took her to a doctor last week that my family doctor referred her to and he prescribed PegaLax Polyethlene Glycol 3350 for her. I just did some research on this product online and it says not to use on anyone under the age of 18. He told me that this is a stool softener, but it says laxative on the package. He also told me to give this to her for six months, but the package says for an adult to "use for one week or less unless advised by a doctor". I am not comfortable with this after reading up on it. Can you tell me if this is safe for a 5 year old and to take it for an entire 6 months. Even the pharmacist questioned the length of time that the doctor prescribed and told me to go back and double check with him. He is telling me to give her the full adult dose, half in the morning and half in the evening for an entire 6 months. Can you please tell me if there is something else she can use instead of this. I appreciate any help that you can give me on this matter. Thank you.
Posted Sun, 29 Jul 2012 in Child Health
Answered by Dr. Ketan Vagholkar 1 hour later
Thanks for writing in.
Polyethylene glycol is an agent used strictly in adults for bowel cleansing prior to any surgical procedure. It causes severe purgation to the extent of dehydration even in adults. Using this medication in a kid for such along time would prove to be disastrous and could cause severe damage to the normal peristalsis and defecation reflex which is still in the process of evolution in a kid of age 5 years. So I suggest you to stop this immediately.
Now for her smooth bowel movements I would suggest the following
1. plenty of water
2. plenty of XXXXXXX leafy vegetables.
3. bananas
4.avoid constipating fruits like apples or XXXXXXX juice as well.
5.increased fiber containing cereals
6. lactulose which is the most physiological laxative would be ideal for a kid of 5 years.You need not give this for a long time. Only when she is facing difficulty in passing stools should you administer this at bed time.
I hope this answers your doubt.
With regards
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Child has constipation, taken polyethylene glycol. Is PegLax safe for a child? 6 hours later
Thank you Dr. XXXXXXX Vagholkar for answering my concerns and for your advice. I did not realize that apples and XXXXXXX juice were fruit and fruit juices that would constipate. I honestly thought that bananas were binding more than apples. I will definitely stop giving apples and XXXXXXX juice to her. I only gave my granddaughter half a packet this morning before I found the Healthcare Magic website. I will not be giving her anymore of this PegaLax. I was concerned that if I did continue to give this to her that her system would start to depend on it and not be able to go without any type of laxative. You mentioned something called lactulose. If I do give this to her, are you saying that she will not become dependent on it if I only give it to her occasionally?
Further to what I explained to you in my original question, the doctor who prescribed the PegaLax to her told me that the reason that he wants her to take it for 6 months is because he thinks that she needs to build the elastisity back in her bowels. Do you thnk that she needs to build this up again or do you think that she is still too young for this kind of damage to have occurred yet? I would appreciate any more advice that you can give me on this matter. Thank you again and I will look forward to your response.
Answered by Dr. Ketan Vagholkar 11 hours later
Thanks for the feedback.
Lactulose is a sugar which is not absorbed but exerts a osmotic effect causing good evacuation of the bowel. It also lowers the colonic Ph which is ideal for the health of the gut. Your grand daughter will feel fresh and energitic. You need not give it everyday. First modify her dietary habits as I have already advised. Give lactulose only on the weekend(Fri/sat) not everyday. With this she will have no problems at all. The explanation for using pegalax is not acceptable at all for such a small kid. One has to go slow and respect the differential growth of various body systems. Rushing on function could be detrimental.
I hope this answers your querry.
With regards
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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