Some products that soften stool include Colace, Correctol, Ex-Lax and Fleet Sof-Lax, according to MedlinePlus. Combination products that soften stool include Gentlax S, Senokot S, Peri-Colace and Ex-Lax Gentle Strength.
Stool softeners are oral medications in the forms of tablets, capsules and liquids, explains MedlinePlus. Usually, patients take these medications at night, but they must follow package directions to ensure that the medications work correctly, and in most cases, they take them with full glasses of water. If the medication is liquid, a patient can take it with about 4 ounces of fruit juice or milk to mask the taste.
It usually takes a couple of days to see results from a stool softener, states MedlinePlus. Patients must not take this medication for more than a week unless under the care of a doctor. If a person experiences a sudden change in bowel habits that last longer than a couple of weeks, or if the stool is still hard after a week of taking a stool softener, the patient must contact a doctor. Minor side effects of stool softeners include intestinal cramps, throat irritation and nausea, but if major side effects occur, such as difficulty breathing or vomiting, medical attention is required.