Before becoming a mother I never thought so much of my time would be devoted to poo. Wiping poo, keeping track of poo, trying to get my kid to poo, teaching him how to poo in the potty, and helping my kid who can’t seem to poo.
Constipation is sure to be an issue every parent deals with at some point with their kids. While constipation is a common problem, if left untreated, chronic constipation can lead to pain, anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and encopresis. When my son was a toddler, he was a withholder (meaning he would hold his poo until it was impossible to hold it). I added prune juice to his milk. I added fibre to his diet. I would try to distract him or give him a warm bath to relax before it was time to poo. But he still became consitpated. So I took him to our paediatrician, who told me to give him Miralax. Since this was my first child and I trusted my paediatrician, I did as instructed without giving it a second thought. A daily dose of Miralax became routine when my son was consitpated, and even to prevent constipation if he had gone a day or two without a bowel movement.
Cue to 5 years later when my son started complaining about daily stomach pain. We had already been dealing with some behavioural issues and received an anxiety diagnosis for him. The pediatrician (a different one due to a cross-country move the year before) believed the stomach pain was anxiety-related and I tended to agree. So we went to therapy and worked on the anxiety. But the stomach pain persisted. Eventually, we were sent for a x-ray of my son’s abdomen and discovered he did have stool that appeared to be stuck in his colon because that portion of his colon was also dilated by air/gas. The pediatrician wanted me to do a clean out to get things moving and see if my son’s stomach pain subsided. She prescribed Miralax. Again, I listened to the doctor and started giving it to my son.
Almost immediately I began seeing a change in my son’s behaviour. I saw an uptick in his edginess, an inability to tolerate discomfort, and highly emotional outbursts over everything and nothing. I casually mentioned to my friend, a nurse and mum of three, what was going on and she asked me if I had given him Miralax, When I said I had, she told me about her recent experience. After giving her daughter a dose of Miralax at dinner, her daughter proceeded to experience hallucinations all night long. Like night terrors, but even more intense and constant. She was otherwise healthy (no fever) so my friend suspected a bad reaction to Miralax. She looked it up on the internet to see if it was a side effect and lo and behold: it is!
I found that many parents who noticed behavioural issues such as rage, anger, aggression, anxiety, depression, and mood swings after giving Miralax and news reports documenting their stories. Despite many pediatricians calling Miralax “safe and natural” and recommending it to help children with constipation that the drug contains PEG 3350 and may have small amounts of the same toxic chemicals found in anti-freeze. Additionally the product label warns it is not to be used in children under 17 years of age.
The effects of PEGs haven’t been studied much in kids. The FDA’s position on Miralax has been that there is not sufficient data to link PEG 3350 to serious neuropsychiatric issues in children, or to warrant any additional warnings at this time. “However, because many parents and physicians rely on these products to treat serious constipation,” the agency added, “we have decided to fund research to better determine the benefits and risks associated with the use of these products in children.” This research is still ongoing.
For parents who have given Miralax and then seen horrifying behavioural changes in their kids, the FDA’s lack of concern provides little comfort. And while there is no known and reliable research to support these parents’ claims yet, after seeing similar temporary changes in my own son, I will not be taking that risk with Miralax again. There are truly “natural” remedies to consitpation — senna tea, prune juice, magnesium, fiber-rich foods, drinking lots of water, just to name a few — and I’ll be opting for those over Miralax recommendations from now on.
Have you ever given your kiddo Miralax? Did you notice any scary side effects?