How to Use Rectal Suppositories

Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD on September 30, 2016Written by University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group on June 17, 2016

Introduction

Rectal suppositories are solid forms of medication that are inserted into the rectum. They come in different shapes and sizes, but they are usually narrowed at one end. Rectal suppositories can deliver many types of medication. For instance, they may contain glycerin to treat constipation or acetaminophen to treat a fever. Medication from a rectal suppository tends to work quickly. This is because the suppository melts inside the body and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

What you’ll need

To insert a rectal suppository, you’ll need the suppository plus soap and water or hand sanitizer to clean your hands. You may also need a clean, single-edge razor blade and lubricating jelly.

Step-by-Step instructions

You can use these instructions to use a rectal suppository yourself. If you’re a parent or caregiver, you can also use these steps to give a suppository to a child or another adult. If you have trouble giving yourself a rectal suppository, ask a loved one use these steps to help you.

Preparing

  1. Gently squeeze the suppository to check if it is firm enough to insert. If it’s not, let it harden by holding it under cold water while it is still in the wrapper. You can also place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
  2. If possible, go to the bathroom and empty your bowels.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, you can use hand sanitizer instead. Dry your hands with a clean towel or a paper towel.
  4. wash hands
  5. Remove your clothing to expose your buttocks.
  6. Remove any wrapping from the suppository. If you need to cut the suppository, carefully cut it lengthwise with a clean, single-edge razor blade.
  7. To moisten the tip of the suppository, apply a lubricating jelly such as K-Y Jelly. If you don’t have lubricating jelly, apply a small amount of water to your rectal area.

Inserting the suppository

  1. Get into position. You can stand with one foot up on a chair. You can also lie down on your side with your top leg slightly bent toward your stomach and with your bottom leg straight. If you’re giving the suppository to someone else, you may want to place them in this second position.
  2. position on side
  3. Relax your buttocks to make it easier to insert the suppository.
  4. Insert the suppository into the rectum, narrow end first. Gently but firmly, push the suppository past the sphincter. The sphincter is the muscular opening of the rectum. For adults, push it in one inch. For children, depending on their size, push it in a half inch to one inch. And for infants, push it in about a half inch.
insert suppository
measure

Finishing up

  1. Sit or lie with your legs closed for 15 minutes. If you’re giving the suppository to a child, you may need to gently hold their buttocks closed during this time.
  2. Throw away all used material in a trash can.
  3. Wash your hands right away with soap and warm water.

Helpful tips

Helpful tips

  • Unless the suppository is a laxative, try not to empty your bowels for one hour after inserting the suppository. Also avoid exercise or lots of movement for one hour.
  • Store the suppositories in a cool place to prevent melting. Keep them in the refrigerator if the medication label says to do so.
  • You can use latex gloves or finger cots to protect your fingers while inserting the suppository. You can buy these at your local pharmacy.
  • Consider trimming your fingernails to help prevent cuts and scratches while inserting the suppository.
  • Avoid using petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to lubricate the suppository. It can keep the suppository from melting after it’s inserted.

Troubleshooting

If the suppository comes out after you insert it, you may not have pushed it far enough into the rectum. Be sure to push the suppository past the sphincter, which is the muscular opening of the rectum.

Talk with your doctor

These steps should make it easy and painless to insert a rectal suppository. If you have questions or if you’re having trouble inserting a suppository, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Q:

When are rectal suppositories used?

A:

Rectal suppositories may be used to deliver certain medications to the intestine. These medications include laxatives and drugs to treat internal hemorrhoids. Rectal suppositories can also be used if the drug may be destroyed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract when taken by mouth, if a patient has a blockage in their upper GI tract that would prevent oral medication from moving through the GI tract, or if a patient is vomiting and can’t take medication by mouth. They can also be used to treat seizures, during which a patient isn’t able to take medication by mouth.

Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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