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If you use over-the-counter laxatives, take precautions to avoid negative reactions

What are the negative effects of using laxatives?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to people who use a specific type of over-the-counter laxative – those that include sodium phosphate in their formulation. It is important that you inform yourself of certain negative effects that they can have if you do not use them correctly, such as dehydration and abnormal levels of electrolytes in the blood, which in turn can cause other serious complications such as kidney damage and, sometimes, even death. .

Who wants to talk about constipation? It may not be one of the most pleasant topics, but the truth is that it affects us all at some point. To some, sporadically. For others, it is a bothersome condition that they must try to cope with day to day. It affects about 2% of the United States population, with women and the elderly being most affected.

It happens when the evacuation of stool occurs infrequently, and it becomes difficult and even painful. Medically it is defined as less than three bowel movements a week and it is considered severe when it is bowel movements less than once a week. To relieve it, many people use over-the-counter laxatives. If you are among them, pay attention.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns people with constipation that if they self-medicate, they should be careful with over-the-counter sodium phosphate-based laxatives (the brand name es Fleet, or the generic or name of the sales establishments that contain sodium phosphate). When not given at the appropriate frequency and dosage, they could cause negative effects such as dehydration, abnormal electrolyte (mineral) levels, and other serious consequences, including death. To date, about 13 deaths related to the inappropriate use of these laxatives have been reported in the United States.

What does the label of sodium phosphate laxatives say? That a single dose be used, used once a day and no more than three days in a row. At the same time, it warns that if an evacuation does not occur after using the indicated dose, whether orally or rectally, that a second dose not be used.

The label also warns that children and adults who have conditions such as renal failure (kidney failure), heart problems, or dehydration, consult their health care professionals before using this type of laxative.

To the above, the FDA adds that both children and adults should consult with their doctor before using these laxatives if:

  • The person is taking medications that affect kidney function, such as diuretics or medicines to increase the amount of urine.
  • Those who take angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors), which are taken to lower blood pressure.
  • Those taking angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), which are used to treat hypertension, heart disease or kidney failure.
  • Those taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.
  • People who have inflammation in the colon.

They also recommend that this medication not be administered orally (by mouth) to children under 5 years of age without consulting a pediatrician, and that it not be administered rectally to children under 2 years of age.

The warning signs

Those using sodium phosphate laxatives should be alert for possible signs of a negative reaction. For example:

  • Dehydration: you will experience dry mouth, a reduction in the amount of urine and dizziness (especially when changing position).
  • Kidney damage: The person may notice drowsiness, lethargy, a reduction in urine, or swelling of the ankles, legs, or feet.

If any of these symptoms or signs are experienced, or if the rectal dose is withheld for more than 30 minutes, medical assistance should be sought as soon as possible.

Now you know. It's natural to try to seek relief from constipation, but do so with caution and carefully follow label directions to avoid potentially dangerous reactions.

"Because prevention is better than cure"

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