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Arlex Side Effects

Generic name: sorbitol

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 1, 2023.

Note: This document contains side effect information about sorbitol. Some dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Arlex.

Applies to sorbitol: irrigation solution. Other dosage forms:

Serious side effects of Arlex

WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:

Other side effects of Arlex

All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if you have any side effects that bother you or do not go away.

These are not all of the side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, call your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-332-1088. You may also report side effects at

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to sorbitol: compounding powder, irrigation solution, oral liquid, rectal enema.


Gastrointestinal side effects have included sudden severe abdominal bloating, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and osmotic diarrhea.[Ref]


Metabolic side effects have included reports of hypernatremia. These reports have primarily been associated with multiple administrations of activated charcoal sorbitol (the active ingredient contained in Arlex) preparations.[Ref]

One case study describes a 37-year-old patient who presented with phencyclidine intoxication. The patient was given four doses of activated charcoal in sorbitol and 1 dose of magnesium citrate over a 12-hour period of time. Lab results showed an increase in the serum sodium from 138 mmol/L to 165 mmol/L. The hypernatremia continued to worsen after the magnesium citrate was discontinued. It was felt that the increase was due to the repeated sorbitol administration. Other adult cases of hypernatremia secondary to activated charcoal-sorbitol regimens have been reported in the literature.[Ref]


1. Henley E. Sorbitol-based elixirs, diarrhea and enteral tube feeding [letter]. Am Fam Physician. 1997;55:2084,2086.

2. Johnston KR, Govel LA, Andritz MH. Gastrointestinal effects of sorbitol as an additive in liquid medications. Am J Med. 1994;97:185-91.

3. Kneepkens CM, Hoekstra JH. Fruit juice and chronic nonspecific diarrhea [letter; comment]. J Pediatr. 1993;122:499.

4. Breitenbach RA. 'Halloween diarrhea'. An unexpected trick of sorbitol-containing candy. Postgrad Med. 1992;92:63-6.

5. Jessen LM, Barone JA. Ready-mix charcoal/sorbitol [letter; comment]. Ann Emerg Med. 1992;21:110-1.

6. McNamara RM, Aaron CK, Gemborys M, Davidheiser S. Sorbitol catharsis does not enhance efficacy of charcoal in a simulated acetaminophen overdose. Ann Emerg Med. 1988;17:243-6.

7. Krenzelok E. Sorbitol--a safe and effective cathartic [letter]. Ann Emerg Med. 1987;16:729-30.

8. Wax PM, Wang RY, Hoffman RS, Mercurio M, Howland MA, Goldfrank LR. Prevalence of sorbitol in multiple-dose activated charcoal regimens in emergency departments. Ann Emerg Med. 1993;22:1807-12.

9. Payne ML, Craig WJ, Williams AC. Sorbitol is a possible risk factor for diarrhea in young children [published erratum appears in J Am Diet Assoc 1997 Oct;97(10):1090. J Am Diet Assoc. 1997;97:532-4.

10. James LP, Nichols MH, King WD. A comparison of cathartics in pediatric ingestions. Pediatrics. 1995;96:235-8.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.