What is the Evidence for Over the Counter Laxatives to Treat Childhood Constipation?

Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2021 Oct 12;23(11):19. doi: 10.1007/s11894-021-00818-1.


Purpose of review: Functional constipation is a common pediatric GI disorder that is responsible for a significant portion of pediatric office visits each year. It presents a significant stressor for patients, their families, and providers alike. There are a variety of over the counter agents available for treatment of pediatric constipation.

Recent findings: Osmotic laxatives, such as polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG 3350) and lactulose, remain the most effective and safe therapy for both long and short term treatment of pediatric functional constipation. Stimulant laxatives, like Senna and Bisacodyl, probiotics, fiber preparations, enemas, and suppositories make excellent choices for adjunct therapies in specific clinical scenarios. There are multiple over the counter pharmacologic agents with various mechanisms of action that have demonstrated efficacy in pediatric functional constipation. These therapies are generally safe and well tolerated by patients.

Keywords: Constipation; Functional constipation; Laxative; Pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Constipation* / drug therapy
  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lactulose / therapeutic use
  • Laxatives* / therapeutic use
  • Polyethylene Glycols / therapeutic use


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Laxatives
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Lactulose