Many people use laxatives for relief from occasional constipation, but as little as just a dose per day could result in serious harm or even death, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a safety announcement released Wednesday.
The agency warned that many of today’s popular, over-the-counter laxatives contain sodium phosphate, an ingredient that can cause severe kidney damage and heart complications.
Reports of brand-name products, including Fleet enemas and other OTC laxatives, have been known to cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in the blood of some people who took more than the recommended dosage to treat constipation.
Those especially at risk for problems due to laxative overuse are small children and the elderly. Also at risk are patients with kidney disease or bowel conditions, and those treated with drugs that impact the kidneys, such as high blood pressure medications and diuretics.
Over-the-counter pain relievers – including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen – can also put those who take above the recommended laxative dose at greater risk for serious health problems.
According to the FDA, no child who is 5 years or older should be given laxatives without first consulting with a qualified health care professional – and enemas should never be administered to those children who are younger than 2 years old.