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Miralax Dependency in Children

By Mitali Ruths ; Updated August 14, 2017

Miralax is a laxative, a drug used to treat constipation or bowel movements that are infrequent and hard to pass. It is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough and is known by the generic name of polyethylene glycol 3350. Miralax is available over-the-counter and has become a widely used medication for treating constipation in children.

When Is A Child Constipated?

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, the number of normal bowel movements varies significantly among children, from three times a week up to three times a day. Constipation is a common and often frustrating problem in children. When a child goes four or more days without a bowel movement or has hard or painful stools, some intervention may be necessary.

In most cases, constipation is not related to any other disease. The first steps in treating children with constipation include changes in behavior, like sitting on the potty for five to ten minutes after every meal and receiving positive reinforcement with rewards, as well as dietary changes, such as drinking more water or adding high-fiber foods like bran, whole wheat, fresh fruits and vegetables.

When Should A Child Use Miralax?

If constipation does not get better with changes in routine or diet, then the child should see his doctor before starting a medication like Miralax to help soften the stool. Although the medication is available over-the-counter, parents should not use the laxative in young children without speaking with the child’s doctor.

How Does Miralax Work?

Miralax comes as a white powder that is dissolved into a cup of juice or water. The dose for children is typically 0.7 to 1.5 g/kg per day dissolved in 4 to 8 oz. of water, up to a maximum adolescent and adult dose of 17 g, or one Tbsp., per day. Two or four days of treatment may be required before Miralax works.

Miralax does not get absorbed by the body. Instead, it travels through the gut and pulls water into the colon to soften the stool. The ACG website states that this medication “is tasteless, safe and non-habit forming.”

Does Miralax Cause Dependency in Children?

Parents should be patient with a child who has constipation. The establishment of a regular rhythm of bowel movements may take weeks or even months to achieve. Potty training is a complex, gradual process that depends on each individual child. It involves a mixture of physical, psychological, emotional and environmental factors.

Although taking Miralax is not habit-forming as a drug, it may become such a part of the child’s routine that gradual weaning will need to take place. Children should drink more water and increase the fiber in their diet while cutting back the amount of medication. Consulting a doctor will be helpful in figuring out the right dosage for Miralax.

Precautions for Using Miralax in Children

Children also need to be seen by a doctor so that they can be evaluated for symptoms of bowel obstruction. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and bloating. Children who have sudden change in their bowel habits or kidney disease should also definitely be seen by a doctor before starting Miralax.

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