Glycerin Suppositories

Glycerin Suppositories

What are Glycerin Suppositories

Glycerin suppositories (or G.S.) are common over-the-counter products used to relieve constipation, a very common problem that afflicts people of all ages. These suppositories are laxatives, which help make bowel movements easier for babies, adults, and elderly individuals. People who experience constipation have a decrease in the frequency of their bowel movements accompanied by difficulty or pain during defecation. The frequency of bowel movements differs in every person but people who feel constipated often complain that they have not eliminated solid waste for at least three successive days. Individuals who are looking for a safe and effective way to relieve their symptoms often want to know how to use those suppositories and ask what the side effect are, if any.

As a Treatment for Constipation

About Constipation

Constipation can affect anyone at any time in his or her life. It may be a temporary problem for most people or a chronic condition in others. Women and older people are most commonly affected. The symptom is often not associated with a serious condition but it may affect some people more often than others. The condition may pose a serious concern for other people, especially in those who have heart disease.

The frequency of bowel movement differs in many individuals and it may vary with every person’s bowel habits. Some people move their bowels daily, with some having up to two or three normal episodes a day. However, other people go to the toilet only one or two times in a week. People complain of constipation when their bowel movements become less frequent than usual. After more than three days without bowel movements, it may be more difficult for one to pass stools because stools become harder.

Generally, constipation results from inadequate fluid intake, a diet low in fiber, lack of exercise, poor bowel habits, and certain diseases, foods, and medications. Symptoms of constipation include frequent straining during bowel movements, difficulty passing hard stools, incomplete bowel movements, and having two or less bowel movements in a week. It may also be accompanied by abdominal pain, bloating, and vomiting.

Treatment for Constipation

There are many forms of treatment for constipation including improvement of diet and lifestyle, taking oral laxatives and stool softeners, and using various suppositories, such as G. S. .

What are They?

G.S. are laxatives that are administered through the rectum to stimulate bowel movement. Glycerin (glycerol or glycerine) is a colorless, odorless, and viscous sugar compound that is water soluble and non-toxic. The suppositories are in solid form and are cylindrical or cone-shaped medicines. G. S. are used to treat constipation and they can be obtained without prescription.

How Do They Work?

G.S. are hyperosmotic laxatives that work by pulling water from the intestines into the stool. Water drawn into the bowel stimulates peristalsis or the forward movement of intestines and softens the hardened stool mass by hydrating the stools. Glycerin is also a mild irritant, which stimulates bowel muscles to contract, thus helping to move stools along and making passing them out of the body much easier. By providing lubrication to the interior of the rectum, stools slide out of the bowel towards the anus in a rapid and painless manner, avoiding the formation of anal fissures (cuts and tears in the anus). How long does it take for a G. S. to work? These processes usually result in bowel movement within 15 minutes to an hour after application of the suppository.

Suppository for Adults for Hemorrhoids

Constipation is often accompanied by frequent straining to force out stools. Excessive straining causes the formation of hemorrhoids, or dilated blood vessels located in the lower rectum. The presence of hemorrhoids worsens constipation because it acts as an obstruction, and constipation likewise aggravates hemorrhoids. To relieve these, a G.S. for adults for hemorrhoids may be used to enable bowel movement to pass smoothly with less straining.

G. S. may also provide relief for constipation in various situations, including:

• before giving birth

• after giving birth

• in preparation for a medical examination or surgery

• when straining should be avoided after surgery

• when straining must be avoided because of other medical conditions (ex. heart failure)

How to Use Them

One can buy G.S. without a medical prescription and they are available at any local drug store. Occasional use of these laxatives is considered relatively safe, but it is advisable to consult a doctor before using these medications repeatedly or for longer periods.

Unless otherwise specified by a doctor, the recommended dose for adults is one glycerin suppository per day. It is not advisable to use glycerin suppositories for long periods, because laxative dependency may occur.

Here is how to use them:

1. If the glycerin suppository is soft, place it in the refrigerator for about 15-30 minutes to give it a firmer consistency. You can also try running cold water over it (with the wrapper still on).

2. Wash your hands thoroughly before opening the suppository’s wrapper.

3. Next, remove the wrapper and moisten the suppository with cool water or a water-soluble lubricant such as K-Y Jelly (but not mineral oil or petroleum jelly).

4. Lie on your side with the lower leg straight and the upper knee slightly bent toward your stomach. If you are right-handed, lie on your left side so you can use the right hand to insert the suppository. Do the opposite if you are left-handed.

5. Use your finger to gently insert the glycerin suppository up into the rectum, with pointed end of the suppository going in first. It should go in beyond the muscular sphincter of the rectum, which is about one inch from the anal opening. If it does not go beyond this point, the suppository may pop out.

6. After inserting, hold the buttocks together and stay in position for about 15 to 20 minutes or until you feel a strong urge to move your bowels.

7. Discard wrapper and wash your hands thoroughly after use.

How Many Glycerin Suppositories Can I Use In One Day?

Many people ask, how many G.S. can I use in one day? Well, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor, use G.S. only once per day. These suppositories are available in 1 g, 2 g, and 4 g preparations, and depending on a doctor’s advice, you may use one to two suppositories once per day.

Laxatives like G.S. should be used only for short-term relief from constipation. If you are still constipated after using G.S. for three days, you should consult your doctor.

Are They Safe?

G.S. are relatively safe when used properly to provide short-term relief of symptoms from constipation.

Some precautions must be observed before using glycerin suppositories:

• Inform your doctor if you have some medical condition that may interact with the use of glycerin suppositories.

• Inform your doctor if you are planning to become pregnant, pregnant, or are breast-feeding.

• Ask your doctor if you may use the suppositories if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription drug, herbal medicine, or dietary supplement.

• Ask for advice on their use if you have any allergies to foods, medicines, or other substances.

• Tell your doctor if you have rectal bleeding before using suppositories.

To be safe, avoid using glycerin suppositories if:

• you are allergic to glycerin

• you have abdominal pain that has not been diagnosed

• you have gastrointestinal obstruction or a blockage in the digestive system

• you have persistent constipation or change in bowel habits lasting for two weeks

• you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain

• you have other bowel problems such as ulcerative colitis

• you have anal fissure or rectal tears

With all these precautions, one may wonder, are G. S. safe? Yes, they are, and as with other medications, they should be used only as instructed:

• G.S. are meant for rectal use only. They should never be taken by mouth.

• Use these laxative suppositories for short periods only (up to three days) and consult your doctor if symptoms persist.

• Store G. S. away from children’s reach.

• Store the suppositories in a cool place to prevent them from melting.

• Use only as directed by the doctor or according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Long Term Use

Doctors often advise their patients how to use G. S. to relieve constipation for short periods only – usually just up to three to five consecutive days at most. Long-term use of G. S. is never encouraged, as with other forms of laxatives, because it can lead to laxative dependence, where one cannot move their bowels without using them. Laxative suppositories stimulate the bowel walls and do not strengthen them. If used over long periods they can actually weaken these colon muscles, which reduce peristaltic action necessary to keep stools moving through the colon.

Habitual use may also result in undesirable side effects of G.S., which are often not experienced when they are used as advised. Long-term use of G.S. can cause chronic or persistent diarrhea, which can lead to significant reduction in serum potassium levels and other electrolyte imbalances. These imbalances can later lead to kidney problems.

How to Avoid Long Term Use

Many people believe that they should go to the toilet daily and use laxatives when they cannot move their bowels. However, this is not necessary because for many people it is normal not to go every day. To avoid constipation one must try to eat a healthy diet containing fiber-rich foods such as wholegrain cereals and bread, bran, fruit, and vegetables. Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water daily also helps soften stools. Experts also advise avoiding foods that can cause constipation such as pastries, puddings, sweets, and cheese. Drinks containing alcohol and caffeine (coffee, tea, colas) may also make your constipation worse. To avoid long-term use of G. S., it is best to eat a healthy diet with less sugar and more fiber and to engage in regular exercise.

Side Effects

Most people who use these products occasionally while following directions properly do not experience any side effects of G. S. If a doctor has advised you how to use glycerin suppositories, then you can be sure that he/she believes that their benefits are greater than the risks. All medicines may cause side effects, although many people experience no, or minor, side effects.

Consult your doctor if these COMMON side effects of G. S. persist or become bothersome:

• Abdominal discomfort or cramps

• Rectal irritation or burning

• Diarrhea

• Gas

• Nausea

• Small amounts of mucus in the stool

Although most people using these products do not experience SERIOUS side effects, some may experience these due to long-term use of G. S.:

• constant urge to defecate

• rectal bleeding

• persistent diarrhea

• Significant loss of body water or dehydration due to persistent diarrhea –

Symptoms include:

– dry mouth

– decreased urination

– increased thirst

– dizziness or lightheadedness

– pale, dry and wrinkled skin

When signs of dehydration occur, it is very important to replace fluids lost through diarrhea by drinking two to three quarts of fluids daily, preferably those containing electrolytes, such as sports drinks or chicken soup, which can help replace salt and potassium lost from diarrhea. You can avoid getting anal tears or perforations during insertion of the suppository by making sure that the pointed end is inserted first. Serious allergic reactions to glycerin are rare.

However, one must seek immediate medical attention if any symptom of a serious reaction occurs, including:

• trouble breathing

• rashes or hives

• chest tightness

• severe dizziness

• itching

• swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat

If there are other side effects not listed here, contact your health care provider. You can also call and report side effects of glycerin suppositories to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (USA) or call 1-866-234-2345 (Health Canada).

Drug Interactions

Some medications may interact with each other and produce undesirable effects. If you are using glycerin suppositories under your doctor’s direction, he may monitor possible interactions with other medications you are taking. You should not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicine without proper advice from your doctor first. Share a list of all medications you are taking with your doctor and pharmacist.


G. S. may be harmful if swallowed. Contact your local poison control center or go to the emergency room immediately if swallowing or overdose is suspected. Call the US National Poison Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. In Canada, contact a provincial poison control center.

Constipation in Children

Constipation is not only a problem for adults or elderly individuals. Even babies and young children experience difficult passage of stools. Infants and children can have a decrease in frequency of bowel movements and feel they need to strain while passing stools. Some cramping and pain may be experienced as the child strains to pass hard, dry stools. Other symptoms include bloating, nausea, and passing stools with small amounts of bright red blood due to slight tearing in the anus (anal fissure). These symptoms usually stop when constipation is relieved.

Parents must be familiar with the normal patterns of bowel movements in children. Newborns should have at least one to two bowel movements per day. Older babies sometimes go two days or longer between bowel movements, which is considered okay if the baby is feeding well and seems comfortable. Babies who breastfeed are more likely to have frequent bowel movements. Constipation usually occurs when a baby shifts from breast milk to formula, especially during the first two to three weeks after birth.

The number of bowel movements each day decreases and the size of stools gets bigger as a baby grows older. A three to four year old child may have as many as three bowel movements a day or as few as three in a week.

Most children occasionally experience constipation, which is usually temporary and does not cause serious problems. Home treatment is usually effective to relieve occasional constipation.

Glycerin Suppository for Infants

Most doctors will advise mothers not to worry about an infant’s lack of bowl movements because it is usually temporary and not serious. Many will recommend increasing an infant’s fluid intake or making some changes in their diet and routines. Sometimes, however, they may also suggest using G. S. for infants.

G. S. offer an easy and convenient way to usually stimulate bowel movement in your infants, since they work immediately after insertion, or up to 15 minutes after. It is important to do this only once unless a doctor advises otherwise. It is always advisable to consult a pediatrician or family doctor first before using G. S. for infants. He/she will give you instructions on how to use G. S. , what dosage to give, and what precautions to take.

Glycerin Suppository for Babies

Older babies may have fewer bowel movements due to changes in their diet, lack of fluid intake, changes in routine or reluctance to use the toilet. Doctors usually recommend home remedies such as increasing their fluid intake, augmenting their intake of fiber-rich foods, or taking a warm bath. If these home treatments do not work, G. S.  for babies may be used once or twice to provide immediate relief. As always, it is best to seek your doctor’s advice on how to use G. S. in babies.

Is It Safe to Use Them on Babies?

Yes, it is safe to use G. S. for babies as long as they are used as directed by a doctor. The use of G. S. for babies and infants promotes the passage of soft stools, which reduces pain and discomfort while defecation. Since glycerin is administered through the rectum and they act only within the rectum, it is not expected to cause any effect on the body. However, there are some precautions in using G. S.  for infants and babies, which parents must carefully observe to avoid any side effects of G. S. . Ask your doctor about how to insert G. S.  in children.

How Often Can You Give a Baby a Suppository?

Do not give your baby a laxative suppository more than once without talking to your doctor first. G. S. for infants and babies are intended for short-term use to relieve constipation and this must be done with a physician’s advice.

How to Insert Them in Children

G. S. for babies and children offer a convenient way to resolve the problem with hard-to-pass stools. Before using these, it is best to ask a doctor if this is a suitable option. He/she will recommend the proper dosage your child needs and teach you how to use G. S. .

Here is how to insert them in children:

• Place one glycerin suppository inside the refrigerator for 15 minutes or run cold water over a packet of suppository if it is soft or not firm enough to use.

• Wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap.

• Unwrap the glycerin suppository.

• Depending on the dosage specified by a doctor, you might need to cut the suppository into half or down to a quarter of its size using a knife.

• Lay a child on his/her side.

• Hold the upper buttock of the child to one side with one hand so that you can see the anal opening.

• Using your other hand, hold the suppository with the pointed end towards the child’s opening.

• Use your finger to gently push the suppository into the rectum about ½ to 1 inch deep.

• Let your child lie down for about 15 minutes to prevent the suppository from popping out.

• Wash your hands after the procedure using soap and water.

• If your child does not move his/her bowels after 15 minutes, do not insert another glycerin suppository. Ask your doctor for advice.

Precautions in Using Them for Babies

Although using G. S.  for infants and young children is relatively safe, parents must observe some precautions:

• Use G. S. for babies and children only after consulting with your doctor.

• Do not use glycerin suppositories for infants more than once or twice without checking with your doctor.

• Tell your doctor if your child is being given other medications before using G. S. .

• A suppository is used only for the rectum; it should never be given by mouth.

• If the baby or child vomits after the suppository is inserted, it will still work. Do not insert another one.

• Package labels may show varying dosing instructions for different products, especially for children. Follow dosing instructions provided on the labeling or those given by the doctor.

• Check with your doctor if you are not sure of what dose to give a child.

• Contact your doctor for advice if you think you may have used too much glycerin suppository.

• Keep the suppositories away from heat and direct sunlight.

• Keep the suppositories and other medicines out of children’s reach.

Side Effects of G. S. for Babies

Like any medicine, G. S. for infants, babies, and children may have some side effects. These include anal irritation, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, burning sensation, gas, and diarrhea. Contact your health care provider if these symptoms persist or get worse. Rarely, allergic reactions may occur. Call a doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if your child experiences any of these symptoms: difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, and rashes or hives.


Glycerin suppositories offer a convenient and safe way to relieve constipation in people of all ages. Although these products are available without prescription in most pharmacies, it is best to consult a doctor before using them, especially in children. People are advised to learn more about how to use G. S. and common questions like, “Are they safe?” before using them. Finally, doctors warn against the long-term use of G. S. to avoid undesirable side effects such as persistent diarrhea or laxative dependence.

MedicineNet. glycerin suppository – rectal, Sani-Supp.
Mayo Clinic. Laxative (Rectal Route).
ACS. Glycerin Suppository.
WebMD. Constipation, Age 11 and Younger – Topic Overview.
MedicinesforChildren. Glycerol suppositories for constipation.
WebMD. Your Baby’s Bowels and Constipation. Using Suppositories for Constipation Relief.

More information from Wikipedia.


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