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Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution

Generic name: polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution (pall ee ETH il een GLYE kol ee LEK troe lyte)
Brand name: Colyte with Flavor Packs, GaviLyte-C, GoLYTELY, MoviPrep, NuLYTELY Orange, NuLYTELY with Flavor Packs, PEG-3350 with Electolytes, Plenvu, TriLyte with Flavor Packs, all 28 brand names
Dosage forms: oral kit (-); oral powder for reconstitution (-)
Drug class: Laxatives

Medically reviewed by on Jun 15, 2021. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution?

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution is a laxative solution that stimulates bowel movements. This medication also contains minerals to replace electrolytes that are passed from the body in the stool.

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution is used to clean the bowel before colonoscopy, a barium x-ray, or other intestinal procedures.

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.


Do not use polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution if you have a perforated bowel, a bowel obstruction or severe constipation, or colitis or toxic megacolon. Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution can cause dangerous or life-threatening side effects in people with these conditions.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to polyethylene glycol or any other electrolyte solutions (such as Pedialyte or Gatorade), or if you have:

  • a perforated bowel;

  • a bowel obstruction or severe constipation; or

  • colitis or toxic megacolon.

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution can cause dangerous or life-threatening side effects in people with these conditions.

People with eating disorders (such as anorexia or bulimia) should not use this medicine without the advice of a doctor.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • heart problems, or a heart attack;

  • an electrolyte imbalance (such as low levels of potassium or sodium in your blood);

  • kidney disease;

  • a seizure;

  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcerative colitis, or other stomach or bowel disorder;

  • trouble swallowing, aspiration (accidentally inhaling food or drink);

  • a genetic enzyme deficiency called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency; or

  • a drug or alcohol addiction.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

This medicine may contain phenylalanine. Talk to your doctor before using if you have phenylketonuria (PKU).

How should I take polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution?

Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed.

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte powder must be mixed with water into a solution before using it. Do not add any flavorings such as sugar, honey, artificial sweetener, fruit juices, or other beverages.

Shake the mixture well just before you measure a dose. Drink polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution in the exact portions at the exact time intervals prescribed by your doctor.

This medicine comes with instructions about when and what to eat or drink on your first day of treatment. Each brand may have different instructions.

Do not drink polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution if it has been less than 1 hour since you last ate solid food. For best results, take the medicine 2 to 4 hours after you last ate.

The first watery stool should appear within 1 hour after you start drinking polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution. Keep taking the medicine until you have completed all doses prescribed by your doctor.

Drink plenty of clear liquids (water, broth, black coffee, tea, clear soda) before, during, and after you take this medicine. Avoid foods and beverages that contain pulp or are red or purple in color. You may also eat popsicles (not fruit bars or fudge bars) or gelatin without fruit pieces or toppings.

Do not eat or drink anything within 2 hours before your colonoscopy or other medical test.

Store the unmixed powder at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Store the mixed solution in a refrigerator in an upright position.

Throw away any polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution you have not used within 24 to 48 hours after it was mixed (follow directions for your specific brand of this medicine).

What happens if I miss a dose?

Talk to your doctor if you cannot drink all of the solution prescribed for you. Your test or procedure may need to be rescheduled if your bowel is not completely cleansed.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while taking polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution?

Avoid taking other medications, vitamins, or mineral supplements within 1 hour before drinking polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution. A bowel cleansing can make it harder for your body to absorb other medicines you take by mouth.

Do not use other laxatives while using polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution unless your doctor has told you to.

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • no bowel movement within 2 hours after use;

  • vomiting;

  • dizziness, feeling like you might pass out;

  • little or no urination;

  • a seizure; or

  • signs of an electrolyte imbalance--increased thirst or urination, dry mouth, confusion, constipation, muscle pain or weakness, leg cramps, irregular heartbeats, tingly feeling.

You may need to drink the liquid more slowly, or stop using it for a short time if you have certain side effects. Call your doctor for instructions if you have:

  • gagging, choking, severe stomach pain or bloating;

  • nausea, vomiting, headache, trouble drinking liquids, little or no urinating; or

  • fever, sudden or severe stomach pain, severe diarrhea, rectal bleeding or bright red bowel movements.

Common side effects may include:

  • vomiting, stomach pain, indigestion, bloating;

  • rectal pain or irritation;

  • hunger, thirst, mild nausea;

  • trouble sleeping; or

  • dizziness, chills.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Bowel Preparation:

4 Liter preparations: 8 oz., orally, every 10 minutes, until the rectal effluent is clear or 4 liters are consumed OR 20 to 30 mL per minute via nasogastric tube

2 Liter preparations:
-Split-dose regimen: 8 oz., orally, every 15 minutes over 1 hour, then 0.5 L (approximately 16 oz.) of clear fluid the evening before colonoscopy
---Repeat this dosing the morning of the colonoscopy

-Evening only regimen: 8 oz., orally, every 15 minutes over 1 hour, the evening before the colonoscopy
---About 1.5 hours later: 8 oz., orally every 15 minutes over 1 hour
---An additional 1 liter (about 32 oz.) of clear liquid should be consumed the evening before the colonoscopy.
---Recommended start time is around 6 PM.

-The product must be reconstituted prior to administration.
-Rapid drinking of each portion is preferred to drinking small amounts continuously.
-Avoid red and purple liquids when consuming clear fluids.

Use: Bowel cleansing prior to colonoscopy and barium enema X-ray examination

Usual Pediatric Dose for Bowel Preparation:

6 months or older: 25 mL/kg/hour orally OR via nasogastric tube until the rectal effluent is clear

Comment: Not all products are approved for pediatric use; the manufacturer product information should be consulted.

Use: Bowel cleansing prior to colonoscopy and barium enema X-ray examination

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What other drugs will affect polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may affect polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.