Movicol is a medicine that is commonly used to treat and prevent constipation. Movicol is made from a synthetic substance (polyethylene glycol 3350) together with salts that balance the salts present in the body. Movicol is made up with a specific amount of water (it is not effective without this water) and delivers this water to the parts of the bowel where the stool (or poo) is made. It therefore results in a softening of the poo making it easier to open your bowels.
To understand why constipation occurs see our page on constipation
The amount of movicol that is given will be directed by your GP or paediatrician. It is not uncommon for the dose to be altered according to the needs of the individual child. Therefore if the poo remains hard despite taking movicol it suggests that more movicol needs to be given. Similarly, if the poo’s become very loose and sloppy, this suggests that the dose needs to be reduced. These changed should only be done with medical supervision. Also, it is important to appreciate that sometimes “overflow diarrhoea” occurs when a child is still constipated (please see our video in the contipation section)
Movicol simply acts to soften the stool and it is therefore often given with a bowel stimulant such as Senna or sodium picosulfate. These drugs increase the frequency of bowel opening. You can read more about these medications by clicking on the links.
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Movicol is usually well tolerated although side effects such as abdominal pain & diarrhoea may occur either because of over treatment or because of overflow (see above). Other side effects include a rumbly tummy (borborygmi), nausea and vomiting.
Abdominal distension,flatulence and ano-rectal pain may also occur. A full description of the side effects can be found in the summary of product characteristics.
British National Formulary & summary of product characteristics
Dr Tim Ubhi
Review date: May 2017