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What are the Pros and Cons of Suppositories for Children?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Before using, the pros and cons of suppositories for children should be considered. Depending on the condition being treated, the pros of using a suppository method of treatment may vary, but may include ease of giving required dosages and no risk of the medication being thrown up by a child suffering from nausea and vomiting. Cons include the fact that suppositories are often uncomfortable for the patient to use and may result in a continued need for them in conditions such as constipation.

There are two main conditions which may warrant the use of suppositories in a child. The first and most common is constipation, which may require the use of glycerin suppositories to promote a bowel movement. Benefits of using this method when compared with others include the fact that even very young infants can safely use glycerin inserts and they are often less harsh on the body than chemical laxatives. They do not enter the bloodstream but work because the glycerin melts inside the colon and lubricates hardened stools, making them easier to pass.

One downside of laxative suppositories for children is that if they are used too frequently, children may become dependent on them. Insertion of the suppository, in addition to the glycerin melting to produce a bowel movement, also stimulates the rectal muscles. This also has a laxative effect by causing involuntary straining. Sometimes frequent stimulation in this way can create a dependency, meaning the sphincter muscles may become weakened and need artificial stimulation for every bowel movement.

Other suppositories for use in children are used for nausea and vomiting. These are used when vomiting is so severe that an oral medication will not stay down. Medication is allowed to effectively enter the body and treat the symptoms, which is important in young children because severe vomiting can lead to dehydration.

Downsides of using these types of suppositories for children include the fact that they are often uncomfortable and may result in a strong urge to have a bowel movement. This feeling generally passes once the suppository has melted, but can be very uncomfortable in the meantime. In patients who are also suffering from diarrhea, insertion may stimulate a bowel movement. Children may also feel self-conscious having a parent or physician insert the medication.

Suppositories for children should not be used unless other methods of treatment are either not available or not advised for one reason or another. Although they are not generally dangerous, using rectally inserted medications can be uncomfortable for both the parent and child. As with any medication, parents should consult a doctor or pharmacist before using suppositories. Consultation is especially advised when being used with a child under the age of two.

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Discussion Comments
By anon328133 — On Apr 02, 2013

Our son seems to have a reaction to corn (he's eight months old). My wife breastfeeds and whenever she eats corn, he will have bad gas, develop a rash, and so forth. Most oral liquid suspension pain killers use corn syrup and it's almost better to let him suffer with a fever due to his reaction. Suppositories are available for acetaminophen, however, they are not available for ibuprofen, which is a shame.

By anon323157 — On Mar 03, 2013

Does anyone know if there are dangers of not passing a suppository in a four year old? We are going to the doc tomorrow for his constipation but I feel that he is holding them back because he is afraid a BM will hurt. He had a stomach virus last week with vomiting an diarrhea and I feel that this caused him to want to hold it because he thinks it's going to hurt. We put the suppository in at 4 p.m. It's now 9:30 and still no BM.

By GreenWeaver — On May 29, 2011

@Sunshine31 -I understand what you are saying but I am always afraid of giving such potent medication to my children. There have been studies that have shown that acetaminophen in young children can lead to liver damage.

In fact, I heard the other day that they were now recalling a lot of ibuprofen liquid medicine from the market and warning parents about giving this medication to very young children. You just never know anymore.

By latte31 — On May 26, 2011

@Sunshine31 - I know what you mean. Suppositories to stop vomiting are really effective. I think that suppositories are worth it for vomiting because parents feel such a sense of despair when their children can’t stop vomiting that it is such a relief when they finally do.

Also, I always worry about my child becoming dehydrated. I know that it may seem uncomfortable to insert a suppository, but I always remind my children how about how terrible they feel and how this medication would make them feel better.

They usually comply when I explain it this way. I have never used a suppository for constipation or any other condition other than vomiting, but I am sure if you focus on their current level of discomfort most children would cooperate with the administration of the medicine.

By sunshine31 — On Apr 18, 2011

I just wanted to say that when my daughter was younger she had to use suppositories in order to stopping vomiting. I only had to use one suppository and the vomiting stop. She did not develop any adverse effects like constipation and I would recommend this medication to any parent.

There is nothing on the market that I know of that would stop the vomiting as fast as this. Sometimes medication given in a suppository method is more potent and effective.

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