Over-the-counter Laxatives

Over-the-counter Laxatives

Laxatives have four main classes which patients can use to effectively manage constipation. In every class, Over-the-counter Laxatives have particular licensed age restrictions with some available for children only on prescription. The most common Laxatives are in the following group:

1. Osmotic Laxatives

Osmotic Laxatives work by leading extra water in the bowel from the body. In turn, it has a softening effect on the stool which is easier to pass. This generally takes at least 1 day to work. The exact time may be different because of the initial dose taken. It may take 2 to 3 days for a full effect to take place. Common side effects of Osmotic Laxatives may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin reactions

The most commonly used Osmotic Laxatives are:

  • Lactulose

This is a form of sugar that is not absorbed when ingested. This comes as a liquid that tastes sweet. Lactulose is characterized as a gentle type of Laxative which became a popular choice. This is approved for use in infants less than one year of age as well as in pregnant women.

It usually taken 2 to 3 days before the full effect of this drug is achieved. Several patients may experience the result within 24 hours of the first use.

  • Laxido

This is available as an oral solution that contains Macrogols 3350. This is recommended for use in adults and children from 12 years of age. Laxido can be used during pregnancy.

  • Movicol

This medication is recommended for use in constipation as well as fecal impaction. For the management of constipation, prolonged use of Movicol lasting more than 2 weeks is not recommended.

2. Bulk-forming Laxatives

Bulk-forming Laxatives add bulk and increase fecal mass. Stools become softer and easier to pass. This is a gentle form of Laxatives. Common over-the-counter Bulk-forming Laxatives include:

  • Fybogel

This contains ispaghula husk as the main ingredient and comes as granules to be mixed with water. The mixed suspension must be ingested right away after mixing. Fybogel is recommended for use in adults and children over 6 years of age as well as pregnant women.

  • Methylcellulose

This is available as tablets under the brand name of Cevelvac. Each tablet contains 500 mg Methylcellulose. This medicine is used to manage simple constipation and as an aid to appetite control and treatment of obesity. This medication is not recommended for use during pregnancy unless the benefit outweighs the risks to the fetus.

3. Stimulant Laxatives

Stimulant Laxatives increase the movement of intestines by stimulating colonic nerves which start to contract and promote bowel movement. This is usually taken at night before going to bed to make the effect in the morning. This is not recommended for use in pregnancy. The most common Stimulant Laxatives include:

  • Senna

This should only be used in the short-term treatment of constipation. Long-term use of this may cause dysfunction of the intestine and dependence on this Laxative for normal functioning. Senna is recommended for use in adults and children who are 6 years and over.

  • Bisacodyl

This comes as a tablet that is sold under many different brand names:

  • Dulcolax
  • Boots Constipation Relief Tablets
  • Sainsbury’s Constipation Relief
  • Superdrug Constipation Relief Tablets
  • Morrisons Laxative Tablets
  • Tesco Constipation Relief
  • Asda Constipation Relief Tablets

Bisacodyl Tablet is licensed in adults and children from 10 years of age. Children between 4 and 10 years of age can use this medication only if recommended by a doctor. This medicine is usually taken at night before going to bed to get relief in the morning.

4. Fecal Softeners

This increases the penetration of fats and water into the stool which makes the stool easier to pass. Docusate Sodium is available as Fecal Softeners. It is licensed for use in infants and children from 6 months of age up to 12 years of age.

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