Constipation or difficulties to pass stools are commonly experienced among adults and children alike. The treating physician may advise a few changes in your diet and habits. In some acute cases of constipation, a few medications such as laxatives are prescribed. However, a long term use of such drugs may lead to formation of habits. Among such meds, osmotic laxatives are widely used for softening your stools. These drugs are sold as prescription meds and also as an over the counter (OTC) formulation. The key task of these drugs is to enhance the availability of fluids (i.e., water) inside your intestine. This action results in softening and easy discharge of stools. Miralax is a widely used osmotic laxative. But, before starting to use this drug, it is recommended to know its likely side effects.

Difficulties to pass stools occur when waste finds it hard to pass through your large intestine (known as colon). As a result, you may need to strain a lot to discharge stool. This condition is often associated with dehydration. Adequate amount of fluids in your system helps in the free movement of stool. On the other hand, a dehydrated body absorbs water from the colon, thus making stools to become hard. An osmotic laxative boosts water movements through colon by osmosis. Once the fluid levels are balanced, colon draws enough water into it. The net result of such osmosis is softening of stools and easy discharge.

Of the several types of osmotic laxatives widely available, two most popular OTC meds are glycolax and miralax. Both these drugs are based on the same generic formulation called polyethylene glycol (PEG). Miralax is mainly used for infrequent episodes of constipation. The drug is known to enhance movements of bowel by making stools to become soft. It is also available with prescriptions. In most cases, people use it as an OTC drug; in such instances, it is important to thoroughly study the instructions printed on the pack. It is a good practice to seek the drug information leaflet from your pharmacist before starting to use miralax.

Side effects of miralax

This drug is available in a powder form and as a liquid variant. Its powder form is mixed as per instructions printed in the pack or leaflet. The typical dose is mixed in nearly 150 to 200 ml of water or other such fluids.  You may also mix it in tea, coffee or juices. In case of its liquid form, you are advised to use the measuring device or spoon provided along with the pack. Use of a spoon or ladle from your kitchen runs the risk of an overdose.

Common side effects triggered by miralax include gas formation, flatulence, bloating, pain in abdomen, nausea and other abdominal discomforts. Almost all of these side effects may discontinue soon after a few doses. However, if you continue to witness these discomforts, you are advised to consult your pharmacist or the treating physician as quickly as possible. Some users have witnessed more frequent movements of the bowel; this may lead to more frequent use of toilet to pass stools. In a few cases, this drug has also led to non-stop spells of diarrhea as well as continuous pain in the lower abdomen. A small minority of users have also complained about spotting traces of blood in stools. These side effects may lead to loss of blood as well as essential salts. It is highly recommended to talk to a qualified medical practitioner upon noticing one or more of these adverse side effects.

The above listing does not represent a complete set of likely side effects. Hence, it is likely to experience unlisted discomforts. Upon noticing any new side effects or reactions, it is strongly recommended to talk to your pharmacist as well as the treating doctor. Based on the type of discomforts experienced, your doctor may prescribe safer alternatives or substitutes. Also, if adverse side effects do not disappear on their own or if some of these discomforts are turning worse, it is a safe practice to call 911 as soon as possible. You can also consider reaching out to emergency helpline numbers of the food and drug administration. People living in Canada are advised to contact Health Canada or seek medical attention from the nearest poison control center.

Allergies triggered by miralax

This osmotic laxative is unlikely to trigger major allergic reactions. In very uncommon cases, a few users experienced allergies such as rashes on skin or hives, itchiness, internal swelling, inflammation of lips, throat, etc. Allergic reactions may also lead to acute levels of drowsiness or dizziness as well as breathing problems such as shortness of breath, gasping and wheezing. In case of witnessing an extreme episode of dizziness, you are advised not to drive or perform activities needing high level of focus or concentration – such as, driving or working on heavy machinery.

Safety precautions for avoiding / minimising the side effects of miralax

Foremost of all, it is important to remember that your doctor has prescribed this med as the benefits clearly outscore the risks of side effects. In a majority of cases, miralax has not triggered very acute discomforts. However, based on your health condition and a few other factors, it may take a few days to witness positive changes. It is natural for the drug to take at least 36 to 48 hours to start its action. But, a few people may increase the dosages (i.e., more than what is prescribed), seeking faster results. This is an unsafe practice.

Prior medical conditions

This drug may trigger some discomforts if you have a few prior medical conditions. It is essential to inform your physician about all pre-existing diseases and disorders. If you are living with clinical conditions like ulcers, gastrointestinal problems or obstruction / internal blockages, your medical team needs to know about such disorders. Also, if your medical history includes renal dysfunction, stomach problems, etc., you must stay away from taking this laxative.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

In general, it is a safe practice to avoid taking this drug when you are pregnant. The effects of this drug on pregnancy are not fully studied. So, if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already pregnant, inform your physician before starting to take miralax. Similarly, it is not clear if the active ingredients of this drug pass through mother’s milk. As a safety precaution, you may need to avoid taking this drug while nursing your baby. If you need additional inputs on safety measures, consult the pharmacist or a certified medical practitioner prior to starting your medication plan.

Interactions with other drugs

Miralax is known to interact with a few other drugs. Your treating physician needs to be informed about all the other meds you are currently taking or treatment plans that you are presently pursuing. It is a safe practice to compile a list of all meds you are consuming – including, over the counter (OTC) drugs, prescription meds, vitamins as well as dietary or herbal supplements. After furnishing this list, never increase or alter the dosages of meds. It is equally unsafe to discontinue any of the drugs present in the list i.e., after sharing it with your treating doctor.

Other safe practices

The standard dose is once every day. Also, a few people may use the drug for a longer period – i.e., more than the prescribed duration or medication plan. This is an equally unsafe practice; prolonged use of miralax may make you dependent on the drug. Over a period of time, it can also lead to chronic spells of constipation. Added safety measures are needed if you are taking this drug without prescriptions. If you do not witness changes in bowel-movements or softening of stools, you are advised to talk to your treating physician immediately.

Older people or aged patients may turn more sensitive to miralax and its active ingredients. Among elders, this drug is capable of triggering indigestion, loosened stools, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The dosages administered onto elders need to be lesser than those given to younger adults. It is safer to talk to a geriatric consultant or a qualified gerontologist to understand the likely impact of this drug on aged or elderly people.

In case of consuming miralax twice within 24 hours, it can trigger a likely overdose. An overdosed condition may also arise when you have taken more than 8 ounces of this drug in a day. During such instances, you may experience a few adverse side effects. People who took an excessive dose have reported reduced flow of urine, acute levels of drowsiness, persistent spells of diarrhea as well as dizziness. In some rare instances, a few people have also experienced respiratory troubles such as wheezing, shortness of breath, gasping, etc. In extreme cases of overdosing, you may experience very adverse signs like passing out or fainting. In all such circumstances, you are advised to reach out to an emergency helpline number or contact a poison control center located near your home on an urgent basis.

Last but not least, never share miralax with other people who may have the same medical condition. In order to avoid a likely loss of efficacy, keep this drug in a safe place where there is no direct exposure to moisture or light sources. It is not a safe practice to keep it in your bathrooms as it can attract moisture. It is equally important to keep this drug far away from the reach of pets as well as children. Instead of an excessive dependence on this drug, you can also consider other means to enable movements of bowel. These alternative approaches include intake of foods rich in fiber; for example, foods such as fruits, whole-grains, vegetables, etc. It is highly recommended to drink a lot of water and workout regularly.

In sum, most common side effects triggered by miralax are bloating, abdominal pains, nausea and bloating. A few people experienced more frequent bowel movements which may require repeated visits to the toilet. In some rare instances, a small set of consumers reported traces of blood in stools. Aged people are more likely to become sensitive to miralax. In older people, it may cause diarrhea and pain in abdomen. If you see these effects persisting for long, it is recommended to consult your treating physician or call for medical help.

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