Enemas: How to Give at Home

If your child has severe constipation, your child’s doctor may prescribe an enema to be given at home.

What is an enema?

An enema is a liquid that is placed into the rectum. It flushes out stool (feces) that has built up (impacted) in the bowel. This process is called disimpaction.

Disimpaction helps restore the rectum’s normal muscle tone.  It can also help your child regain the natural urge to defecate.

An enema may be uncomfortable for your child, but it usually relieves constipation.

Only a doctor can prescribe an enema at home. Usually, this is only if nothing else has worked or if the child is very uncomfortable. Enemas should only be used when a doctor has prescribed them, usually if nothing else has worked or if the child is very uncomfortable. Enemas should not be used regularly.

Other less invasive ways to relieve constipation include:

  • increasing fibre in your child’s diet

  • using stool softeners

How does an enema work?

  1. Your child lies down on his side.

  2. Place the small tube inside your child’s anus. You can rub some petroleum jelly around your child’s anus to help the tube go in more easily.

  3. Flush the enema solution (liquid) through the tube into your child’s rectum.

  4. After five to 10 minutes, your child can sit on the toilet and push out the enema solution and feces.

You may need to repeat this process six to 12 hours later. This depends on the type of enema used. Ask your child’s doctor or pharmacist for exact instructions.

Your child may find the enema uncomfortable, but enemas do not usually hurt.

Different types of enemas

Doctors recommend two types of enemas for children:

  • phosphate solution enema

  • saline solution (salt water) enema

Your child’s doctor will usually tell you which type of enema solution is best for your child.

Tell your child’s doctor or pharmacist if your child has any allergies to medicines. if your child has allergies the doctor may prescribe a different type of enema.

Precautions when using enemas

Always follow the doctor or pharmacist’s instructions. Enemas can lead to dehydration​ or more severe conditions if they are not used correctly.

If you give enemas too often, they may inflame or irritate your child’s anus. This may cause your child to hold in bowel movements and get more constipated. This can lead to anal fissures.

If your child is under two years old, do not give him an enema.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your child’s doctor right away or visit the nearest Emergency Department if:

  • your child shows signs of severe dizziness or passes out

  • your child has severe nausea or vomiting

  • your child is feeling extremely tired or weak

  • your child has swelling of feet or hands

  • your child has severe diarrhea for an extended time

  • your child is unable to pass urine

  • your child develops a rash

  • you believe your child's condition is worse

Key points

  • Enemas are useful for severe constipation.
  • Enemas should be used only when necessary.
  • Encourage your child to drink lots of water after taking the enema.
Sheila Jacobson MBBCh, FRCPC