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Before You Use Stool Softeners


Updated June 17, 2014

Customer browsing on drugstore shelves
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Stool softeners are used to relieve constipation. Stool softeners work by adding moisture to the stool, which makes them softer and easier to pass. Stool softeners come in capsule, liquid and tablet form that you take by mouth. They may be recommended just for short-term use only, although they often can be taken for more than one week (with doctor advisement).

Available Products

Stool softeners are sold over the counter. Most products contain a drug called docusate. Brand names include:

  • Colace
  • Dialose
  • DOS
  • Doxinate
  • Fleet Sof-Lax
  • Modane Soft
  • Surfak

    How to Use Stool Softeners

    Make sure to follow package directions and follow the exact recommended dosage. If you choose a capsule or tablet form, make sure to drink a full eight ounce glass of water. Regardless of the type of product used, make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

      Safety Recommendations

      It is a good idea to check with your doctor before using any medication, even one that is sold over the counter. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding do not use stool softeners without your doctor’s permission. Stool softeners should not be taken if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

      • Nausea
      • Stomach cramps
      • Vomiting

        Side Effects of Stool Softeners

        Some people experience mild side effects of nausea, abdominal cramps and bloating. Throat irritation may occur as a result of using a liquid form of the medication. If you experience any of these mild symptoms, discontinue the use of the medication. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience severe symptoms of:

        • Breathing or swallowing difficulty
        • Fever
        • Skin rash
        • Abdominal pain or cramping
        • Vomiting

        For more laxative options:


        Medline Plus “Stool Softeners"

        DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.


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