How to Give an Enema Safely

Amanda Thomas Jun 5, 2024
Enema Tools with coffee beans and coffee in a glass cup

For clients seeking relief from constipation or bowel irregularities, an enema can offer quick and effective relief.

That’s why nurses need to know how to give an enema safely and with minimal discomfort to the client. In this guide, we’ll discuss what an enema is, the types of enemas available, and, most importantly, how to administer one safely.

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  1. What is an Enema?
  2. Types of Enemas
  3. Uses for an Enema
  4. Step-by-Step Guide to Give an Enema Safely
  5. Potential Side Effects of an Enema

What is an Enema?

An enema involves introducing a liquid solution into the rectum to stimulate bowel movements or cleanse the colon.

This process helps soften stool, making it easier to pass. Health care providers (HCPs) can prescribe enemas as part of medical treatments.

Types of Enemas

There are several types of enemas available, each serving a specific purpose.

Common types include:

  • Cleansing: This helps empty the colon before a medical procedure or surgery. Solutions can include saline, soap suds, or tap water.
  • Carminative (antispasmodic): This type of enema relieves gas and bloating in the digestive system. Solutions may include baking soda or peppermint oil.
  • Retention: These enemas deliver medications or nutrients directly into the colon, bypassing absorption through the stomach. Examples include oil retention enemas, which help soften the stool.
  • Return-flow (Harris flush): This type of enema relieves constipation and removes fecal impactions. Introducing the solution into the rectum and draining it back out helps dislodge and remove stool.

Uses for an Enema

Enemas have various therapeutic uses in health care.

They’re commonly used to:

  • Administer medication or nutrients
  • Aid in the diagnosis of certain medical conditions
  • Hydrate the body when intravenous access isn’t available
  • Prepare clients for a colonoscopy or surgery
  • Relieve fecal impaction or severe constipation
  • Reduce discomfort from gas or bloating

Step-by-Step Guide to Give an Enema Safely

It’s important to follow proper steps when administering an enema to ensure it’s done safely and effectively.

The following are general guidelines for giving an enema, but it’s always best to consult with an HCP for specific instructions.

  1. Wash your hands. Before starting the procedure, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  1. Gather supplies. Make sure you have all the necessary supplies, including the enema kit, gloves, and lubricant.
  1. Prep the client: Explain the procedure to the client, maintain their privacy, and ensure they’re comfortable.
  1. Position the client: Have the client lie on their left side with their right knee bent toward their chest. This position, known as the Sim’s position, helps the solution flow into the rectum more easily.
  1. Prepare the enema: Fill the enema bag or bulb with the prescribed solution and attach the tubing. Lubricate the tip of the nozzle.
  1. Insert the enema tip: Gently insert the nozzle into the rectum, about 2-3 inches for adults. Be careful to avoid any force.
  1. Administer the solution: Slowly squeeze the enema bag to introduce the solution into the colon.
  1. Monitor the client: Observe the client for discomfort or adverse reactions during the procedure.
  1. Allow the client to evacuate: Once you administer the enema, allow the client to evacuate in a private setting.
9 Steps on how to give an Enema

Potential Side Effects of an Enema

While enemas are generally safe when administered correctly, there are potential side effects of an enema to be aware of, including:

  • Allergic reactions to the enema solution
  • Bowel perforation
  • Cramping and discomfort
  • Electrolyte imbalance, especially with frequent use
  • Fluid overflow
  • Muscle tone loss
  • Rectal irritation or bleeding

It’s essential to follow proper protocols and guidelines to minimize risks and ensure client safety.

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