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Karo Syrup for Constipation?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: I heard that Karo syrup prevents constipation, but that it's not good for babies. Does it have some kind of bacteria in it?

A: Your statement is actually incorrect. Corn syrup (Karo) can be eaten by infants. The confusion may come from the recommendation to avoid giving babies honey. A number of years ago a concern was raised about whether corn syrup might contain the same bacteria that honey can have, and some physicians told parents not to let their kids have it. That concern, however, has been proven wrong.

Corn syrup has often been used by parents to manage constipation in infants, though it is not always necessary. Often, just giving the baby as much as two ounces of water once or twice a day is all that is needed to soften the stools. For infants who are already on solid foods (five months or older), pureed prunes are another good way to treat constipation.

If you are going to give your baby corn syrup, the syrup should be put into water, not into the baby's formula, and just a small amount should be added. A teaspoon in two ounces of water is a reasonable amount. Corn syrup is sweet like sugar, and when it gets into the intestine it stimulates it to move the stool along. It also draws a little more fluid into the intestine, thus making the stools less hard. You don't want to overdo it though, because too much can cause diarrhea and change the balance of salt in the body very easily.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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