How to Use an Enema Safely

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An enema is used to clear stool (feces) from your intestines. You may need to know how to use one for certain medical conditions.

Enemas can treat a number of conditions, like constipation. They are also useful for diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopy and before bowel surgery.

You can administer an enema yourself at home, using a kit with an enema bottle or enema bag. Or, it can be done by a nurse or other health care professional.

This article explains how to use an enema at home. It also discusses why they are used, potential problems, and when you should not use them.

Verywell / Emily Roberts


Your enema will be easier to administer if you prepare what you need in advance. You’ll also want to clear your schedule a few hours later, so choose the best time of day that works for you so you don’t have to rush after the enema starts to work.

To use an enema, you need:

  • Enema kit (available at grocery or drug stores)
  • Petroleum or other lubricant
  • Towel
  • Space to lie down

Next, get to the place where you will make the enema ready. You’ll want:

  • Place some towels on the floor, preferably in the bathroom. Roll up one to use as a backing pad. Keep bath towels and other face towels within reach.
  • Keep a watch or timer nearby (perhaps on your phone) so you can time your enema accurately.

To self-administer an enema, you will:

  • Remove the cap from the enema nozzle.
  • Apply some kerosene or lubricant to your anus to make insertion easier.
  • Lie on the floor on your left side. Bend your right knee and place the rolled towel underneath. (If you are left-handed, reverse these instructions.)
  • With your dominant hand, gently insert the tip of the plunger into the rectum. This can be uncomfortable but not painful. If pain occurs, stop and call your healthcare provider.
  • Once placed, squeeze the enema container to push the liquid into the rectum. Squeeze from bottom to top and empty the container.
  • Slowly pull out the nozzle.
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Set an alarm for the recommended amount of time before going to the bathroom. (See chart below.) When the alarm goes off, use the restroom. Then, stay near the toilet for the next 30 to 60 minutes, as you may have to go again.

Solution Minimum time Maximum time
Mineral oil
2 Minutes 15 minutes
15 minutes 60 minutes
Senna 30 minutes 120 minutes


Lubricants may contain plain water or medication. As a treatment, they can soften hard stools. That allows you to get through it.

They may also deliver medication directly into the intestines. Masks are used to treat:

The terms bowel, colon, and large intestine are different names for the same organ.

An enema is a common part of bowel preparation. You may need that before some procedures. These include:

  • colonoscopy: A flexible scope is used to view the inside of your rectum and colon. It can show inflammation, bleeding, damage, and abnormal growth. Studies show better results when enemas are administered before other bowel preparations.
  • Endoscopy signal: Similar to colonoscopy but only involves the rectum and the lower part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon. It can show inflammation, irritation, and growth.
  • Some surgery: Surgery on the intestines or other parts of the lower digestive system usually requires an enema first.

How to use a spasm for a child

An infant or child may need an enema, especially before a medical procedure. Use only the product recommended by your healthcare provider, follow instructions exactly, and hold the child in the correct position, lying on his or her side. Keep the solution warm and avoid inserting the tip of the tube or bulb too far. Be sure to explain what happens and why it’s also needed.

Potential problems

To use an enema, you need to twist your body and put your hands behind your back. This can be difficult if you have:

  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder or arm
  • Loss of feeling in your fingers or hands

Liquid considerations

Follow the instructions for how much liquid to use.

If you use too much, it can move higher to your colon. Then it took longer than expected to launch. You may end up with a nasty surprise after leaving the bathroom.

Using too much fluid can also lead to unusual bloating (your belly sticks out). That can lead to bowel perforation. The condition may not be apparent until severe symptoms appear.

Do not use water that is warmer or cooler than your body temperature. Hotter water can cause discomfort. Cold water can cause contractions that cause the water to drain out so quickly that it can’t function properly.

What to use (and not use)

Use an enema kit recommended by your healthcare provider.

Call your provider if you cannot give yourself an enema as prescribed. Get medical help if it causes severe pain or discomfort.

Do not use home remedies. Avoid trendy enema solutions that contain coffee or alcohol. They are not safe.

Do not use an enema to treat ongoing constipation. That can introduce harmful bacteria into the gut. If you have hard fecal stones, the sudden discharge of fluid and stool can cause a rectal tear.


Something is contraindicated if it is not safe for you because of some aspect of your medical history. You should not use indents if you have:

If you are unable to use an enema, your healthcare provider will discuss other options with you.

Can I Drink Water After Breathing?

In some cases, yes. It will depend on the reason for the enema. For example, if you are having surgery or a procedure, you may need to avoid all fluids for several hours before it is performed. After that, it’s important to drink water to replace lost fluids and keep your digestive system healthy. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider for guidance in your particular situation.


Enemas cleanse your intestines. This is useful for treating constipation or fecal matter. It can also deliver drugs to the intestines.

You may need an enema before a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or bowel surgery.

Let your healthcare provider know if you have problems with your enema or are unable to use the medication as prescribed. Do not use if you have a tumor obstructing the rectum, rectal prolapse, acute coronary syndrome or a compromised immune system.

Follow the instructions carefully and observe the wait times for the components in your kit.

A very good word

Enemas can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and quite rude. Try to put that aside. Understand that it is necessary and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

Masks should not be used frequently. If you find yourself needing them for something like chronic constipation, talk to your doctor about other treatments.

frequently asked Questions

  • What is an enema?

    An enema is a hand-held device used to push fluid (usually mineral oil) through the anus into the large intestine. It is used to treat constipation and to prepare for certain types of procedures, such as colonoscopy.

  • Can enemas be used to treat constipation?

    Yes, an enema can be used to treat constipation. But it is considered a last resort and should not be used regularly.

    Safer ways to treat constipation include:

    • Add fiber to your diet
    • Drink more water
    • Exercise regularly

  • How often can you use an enema?

    The repeated use of enema comes with certain risks. That includes weakened intestinal muscles and hyponatremia (water intoxication). Talk to your healthcare provider before using an enema.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we verify authenticity and keep our content accurate, trustworthy and trustworthy.

  1. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Colonoscopy.

  2. Yıldar M, Yaman İ, Başbuğ M, Çavdar F, Topfedaisi H, Derici H. A new approach to bowel preparation before colonoscopy in patients with constipation: A prospective, randomized trial , the investigator is blind. Turk J surgery. 2017; 33 (1): 29-32. doi: 10.5152 / UCD.2015.3189

  3. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Flexible sigmoidoscopy.

  4. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Enema Administration.

  5. Niv G, Grinberg T, Dickman R, Wasserberg N, Niv Y. Perforation and death after douching due to acute constipation are not uncommon but are preventable. Int J Gen Med. two thousand and thirteen; 6: 323-8. doi: 10.2147 / IJGM.S44417

Read more

  • Wickham RJ. Management of constipation in adults with cancer. J Adv Pract Oncol. 2017; 8 (2): 149-161.

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