How to use suppositories

Suppositories are used to get medicine into your body. They are inserted into your bottom (rectum).

What are suppositories

A suppository is a way to give medicines. It is small, usually cone-shaped and is put into your bottom. Once it’s inside, it melts or dissolves and releases the medicine

Suppositories are made using substances like cocoa butter or vegetable oil to carry the medicine. As the warmth of your body melts the suppository, the medicine slowly releases into your body.

When are suppositories used?

Suppositories are used for treating conditions related to the bowel, for example ulcerative colitis in the rectum (eg, mesalazine suppositories), constipation (glycerol or bisacodyl suppositories) or haemorrhoids (eg, Anusol suppositories).

Suppositories are also used for pain relief and other conditions when taking tablets or capsules is not suitable. This may be because:

  • you have severe nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting (being sick) and can’t keep tablets or capsules down
  • you are having problems swallowing
  • you can't eat or drink.  

How to use suppositories

Always follow the instructions on the packaging of your medicine. The following is a guide.

  • Wash your hands.
  • Remove the suppository from its wrapping.
  • Lie on your side and raise your knees to your chest.
  • Using your finger, gently push the suppository (blunt or flat end first) into your rectum (bottom).
  • Remain lying down for a few minutes so that the suppository melts.
  • Wash your hands.

Unless the suppository is a laxative, used for constipation, try not to go to the toilet for at least 1 hour after use.

Things to consider when using suppositories

  • If the suppository is too soft to use, place the wrapped suppository in cold water or in the fridge for a while to make it firm enough to insert.
  • Some suppositories need to be stored in the fridge. If so, take it out of the fridge for a little while before use so it doesn’t feel too cold.
  • If you only need half of the suppository, cut it carefully lengthwise and keep the remaining half for the next dose.
  • You may feel the urge to force out the suppository. The urge should stop once the suppository melts, which should only take a few minutes.
  • Sometimes the suppository may leak a bit. Wear protective clothing and/or use absorbent pads in your underwear just in case.

Learn more

How to give your child suppositories NHS, UK

References

  1. How to use rectal suppositories Safe Medication, US
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 03 Oct 2022