Drugs Home > Polyethylene Glycol Electrolyte Solution

How Does Polyethylene Glycol Electrolyte Solution Work?

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution is an osmotic laxative. It works by drawing large amounts of water into the colon, which softens the stool and causes frequent, watery bowel movements. These watery bowel movements flush out the intestines. Electrolytes are added to replace the electrolytes (sodium and potassium, for example) lost from the body in the watery stool.
 

When and How to Take It

Some general considerations for using polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution include the following:
 
  • This medication comes as a powder, which is dissolved in lukewarm water before use. The mixed solution is normally swallowed in eight-ounce portions every 10 minutes. It will usually take three to four liters to produce clear, watery stool.
 
  • Solid foods should be avoided for at least two hours before starting polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution. Ideally, you should avoid solid foods for three to four hours before using this medication. Ask your healthcare provider about what type of foods or liquids you can consume while you are using polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution and before your procedure.
 
  • You should drink each eight-ounce portion of polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution as quickly as possible, instead of drinking small amounts continuously.
 
  • Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution is usually taken the night before your procedure. However, it may sometimes be taken the morning of the procedure as well. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to start taking this medication.
 
  • Prepare the solution by filling the container to the indicated line (normally the two- or four-liter mark, depending on the product used) with lukewarm water. Shake the container well to completely dissolve the powder. Also, shake the container before each dose.
 
  • Most products come with flavor packs. These flavorings are optional. If you choose to use a flavor pack, use just one and add it before adding water. Do not add any additional ingredients to the mixed solution, including other flavoring or other liquids.
 
  • You may chill polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution in the refrigerator before drinking it. Chilling the mixed solution may help it taste better. However, chilled solution is not recommended for infants.
 
  • It is important to stay hydrated while using this medication, by drinking plenty of clear fluids.
 
  • It normally takes about one hour after you start drinking the medication to have your first bowel movement. Loose bowel movements will usually continue for one to two hours after your last dose.
 
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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